This is my review of Serial, the podcast researched and narrated by Sarah Koenig.
This podcast has a novel premise- it’s a serialized presentation of the narrator’s investigation of a real life murder. So the events aren’t presented linearly, like a story; facts are revealed in the order that Koenig uncovered them. This is interesting because the murder took place fifteen years before this inquiry began. Many memories are blurred, witnesses must be tracked down, and the accused’s main defense lawyer has died!
The case itself is deceptively simple. Hae Min Lee, a high school student in Maryland, USA, goes missing. A few weeks later her body is found in a park. Suspicion falls squarely on her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed. His friend, Jay, claims that he was a witness to Adnan’s planning and execution of this murder, right down to digging the grave. So where’s the loophole, you ask? Jay is inconsistent; the details of his story change drastically each time he tells it. New eyewitness statements also make it seem difficult for Adnan to have committed his crime within the time frame.
Adnan Syed was convicted of the murder of Hae Min Lee, and is in prison at the time the podcast was recorded. A desperate plea from a family friend of his got Koenig involved in the case. In the absence of forensic evidence, Koenig’s hunt feels similar to those of Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot- cross-question, judge character and put all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together.
But I do have some issues with Serial. For one, Koenig seems biased towards Adnan almost from the very beginning. She describes him as charming, and expresses doubt that a person so nice could be responsible for a cold blooded murder. Secondly, there is no satisfactory conclusion to the investigation. The only evidence for or against Adnan is purely circumstantial and wouldn’t stand up in a court of law. So however convincing you and I find the arguments presented, the case remains the same.
4/5. Listen if you like whodunnits and Agatha Christie-esque investigations. Avoid if your curiosity tends to get the better of you.