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True-crime podcast 'Dirty John' is gripping

17 November 2017 - 15:38 By Sylvia McKeown
John Meehan.
John Meehan.
Image: Supplied

To make print news media more current, the LA Times has started using podcasts to tell the stories of some of its more intriguing cases. One of these, Dirty John, has become something of a sensation on the podcast circuit.

Pulitzer-nominated journalist Christopher Goffard spins the tale of a love story gone wrong between interior designer Debra Newell and anaesthetist John Meehan who is, like most online partners, not at all he seems.

The story starts with an autopsy report detailing 13 stab wounds, with the killing blow striking the victim in the eye. No more of that part of the story is told until the final episode in part six called Terra. The listener is instead swept to the beginning of the relationship and left feeling uneasy trying to guess who the hapless victim is going to be.

Dirty John is in no way the next Serial, but is most definitely a "goody". Unlike Sara Koenig's journey to discover who killed Hae Min Lee, there is no real mystery in Dirty John. It's merely a story in which the end becomes clearer.

The killing blow is but an after-effect of the five-and-a-half episodes that lead up to it. Instead of a murder mystery, think of it as a deeper insight into predatory behaviour and the circumstances that lead the victims they prey on to succumb to their wiles.

It is here that the podcast gets its hook: you know that there is a definitive ending, you just have to sit through the wonderfully woven suspense to get there. You will be treated to many lies, prescription drug addictions, deception, hidden cameras, The Walking Dead, cars on fire, crying in church services, promises of love and surprisingly unwavering forgiveness.

In spite of the host's creepy tone of voice, it grips you in the throat until the very last stab in the eye.

Listen to 'Dirty John' here.

This article was originally published in The Times.