You can listen to the podcast version of this review here.
The Hallifax Slasher is an eight episode deep dive from the Audible stable. It’s 1938 in the Yorkshire town of Halifax, there is a man who at night lies in wait for young women and slashes their clothing, and sometimes their bodies with a sharp instrument. As the provincal police force struggle with this unusual crime spree the town falls into a frenzy of suspicion and vigilanty justice.
While the premise of Halifax Slasher is intreging it is unfortunately let down by the execution. Each episode is punctuated with imagined reconstructions of conversations between the police, victims and witnesses, or residents. Some of these conversations have a dramatic or almost comedic bent to them, which means the tone of the whole piece is uneven, giving the listener a bumpy ride. Perversly the technique that is meant to add drama to the story actully makes it less enjoyable for those of us who are true crime aficionados.
True crime is a serious genre. It is true that there are some successful and enjoyable true crime and comedy podcasts out there. They tend to be presented by hosts who expertly handle the change in mood and never leave the audience in doubt as to their intentions with the subject matter. This is probably possible because their style is more free flowing, and although scripted to some extent is also flexible. Whereas with Halifax Slasher the rigid scripting perversely creates content that is advertised as true crime, but often feels more like crime fiction.
True crime bares as much relation to crime fiction as commercial historical non-fiction does to fantasy. They make solid foundations, but you don’t want to build the rest of the house out of it.
Another important part of the true crime puzzle is also missing, and that is reflection. Yes, there is some, but the last episodes conclusion amounts to “no one really understands this” *shruggs shoulders*. Interviewees whom I would have liked to hear more from to understanding pshycology, motivation and societal and socail norms are given a short amount of air time and relegated to a supporting role, next to the actors.
Halifax Slasher could have benefited from at least one more episode to fully explore the meaning and legacy of the events. Although that would make for a more satisfying conclusion it would not fully make up for the tonal lurches.
True crime at it’s best is about digging underneath criminal behaviours to try and get at deeper truths about humans as individuals and wider society. Possibly it’s something about providing ourselves with comfort through ordering, understanding, sometimes laughing at, and resolving in our own minds the worst in this world. Unfortunately the promise of this in The Halifax Slasher did not come to fruition, but for someone who is just dipping their toes in the world of true crime podcasting, this may be a more cosy and comforting start than some of the more gruesome and well known crimes and criminals who regularly get explored in this world.