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  • Writer's picturePodcast Librarian

Criminal: A true crime podcast, sans murder (usually)

Updated: Oct 16, 2020

The premise (Apple Podcasts description): 

Criminal is a podcast about crime. The show tells stories of people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle, from Phoebe Judge and Lauren Spohrer.

Series or standalone: 


Begin listening to: 

Any episode! Some of my favorites are listed in the review.


Storytelling which often includes snippets of interviews


Phoebe Judge, who has the most amazing public radio voice and Lauren Spohrer.

Sound/production quality: 

Top notch! This is professional podcasting.

Rating/age suitability: 

Depends on the episode, but in most cases, high school and up

Approximate length of episodes: 

20-30 minutes usually, which makes it completely bingeable!

Curricular ties: 

It could be a bit of a stretch, but there are definitely issues of civics and justice that could make your social studies class a little more lively. Most cases are historical in nature, so there is the potential to include in a history class setting, too. Teachers should note any explicit language or themes and be sure to listen to the particular episode before sharing with students; some will be appropriate while others will not. The great advantage of this podcast, as opposed to other true crime, is that it’s fairly tame. With few exceptions, the crimes are not particularly violent or upsetting. Phoebe’s voice may be a little too soothing for sleepy students, though!

Similar recommended pods:  I’m curious to hear if anyone else knows of any. I enjoy this podcast because I don’t think there’s much else out there like it--low-stakes true crime!

Update (10.16.2020)

Phoebe also hosts This Is Love and Phoebe Reads a Mystery.

The Podcast Librarian's review:

This is not your average true crime podcast. Yes, it reports on crimes, and yes, those crimes are true, but it’s not violent or graphic murder (which, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy as much as the next person). Instead, this is audio storytelling at its absolute best, and the crimes are unusual and, in some cases, seem fairly trivial. Many of these stories are from the near or distant past, giving it an interesting historical context. Every time I listen to a new episode, I think, “Wow, this is my favorite episode yet!” Phoebe Judge has the voice of a public radio angel—unusual in its timbre and yet equal parts calming and intriguing. I recommend listening to all the episodes; I have listened to every single one myself, and this is one is the few podcasts that I listen to new episodes as soon as they drop. With episodes usually only between 20-30 minutes, this is definitely a binge-able podcast. However, if you’re unconvinced or short on time, start with one of these:

Ep. 5 Dropping Like Flies Ep. 71: A Bump in the Night Ep. 118: Stowaway

Ep. 147 Kids on the Case

Another curricular option: Each episode is accompanied by original art that relates to the story. All illustrations are in black and white, which adds to the overall ambiance of the podcast. It's also a cool idea for art/design teachers; have students listen to a podcast or piece of audio, and then ask them to make an illustration or other form of visual art based on what they heard!

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