The world of true crime is an imperfect one, stories that are told are often told through the lens of the unconscious biases we all carry with us they can perpetuate harmful stereotypes, and have very uncomfortable deserving victim threads running through them. However the one thing that does the most to make true crime imperfect, is the very thing that makes it true crime. Facts. They really do get in the way of a good story. Crimes go cold, there is no new evidence, death bed confession or scientific breakthrough that solves them, and with that they meander off either into an unsatisfying conclusion or a myriad of increasingly bizarre conspiracy theories.
This of course is not the case with all true crime story telling. Evil Has A Name: The Hunt For The Golden State Killer is one true crime podcast which has to be amoung the most satisfying in terms of endings. More so, because this was a case long cold, and was solved by the tenacity of Paul Holes, who is now the closest thing True Crime has to royalty. He first came across the case at the begining of his carear when it was already cold, and takes us through it’s development up to the point where the Golden State Killer is finally arrested, as Holes is on the cusp of retierment. Rarelly does real life fit so perfectly into a narrative arc.
The other strength of Evil Has a Name is the stories of those who were targeted by GSK. Especially episode 6 Cheri and Greg’s Story, where Debbie Domingo speaks about the death of her mother and her mothers partner, brings home the power of the spoken word and first hand accounts in non-fiction storytelling. Debbie was only 16 when her mother died, at a point where their relationship was already under strain due to Debbie’s quite normal teenage desire for independence, a struggle that most of us will have felt ourselves at some point. It is however Debbie and Cheri’s last conversation that brings home the true depth of pain that those who lose a loved one in such a violent way must feel. As Debbie tells her story, the tone of voice, it’s quiver and the little pauses she makes all bring home the decades of heartbreak she has experienced thanks to the Golden State Killer. The unpretentious, no frills way that Debbie presents us with the series of events, and their ultimate effect on her life, with very few interruptions is a masterclass in letting a story tell itself, and should be considered gold standard for true crime podcasting everywhere.
Evil has a Name is powerful in the way the stories of women, long believed missing or dead crawling out of cellars or escaping houses where they have been chained up for years are powerful. They gives us hope. We are able, even if just for a moment, to rebalance our world into a place where justice does get served, even if it does take a long time. A place where the persistence of the good guys wins, where we as an individual can make a difference, and the right man is always found guilty. It is a break from the random causality inherent in crime, the suspicion that lingers at the edges of everyone’s mind and which we try desperately to push away, that anyone of us, at any time could be a victim ourselves, because it is easier to live our life with those privileged blinkers on. In it’s perfect narrative arc and it’s most satisfying of conclusions Evil has a Name could indeed be called the grimmest of fairy tales, and it is all the more wonderful for it.