The Coldest Case In Laramie

Podcast Trailer

Publisher:
Serial Productions, The New York Times

The Coldest Case In Laramie

4.2/5

Critic Rating

Kim Barker, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter for The New York Times, revisits an unsolved murder that took place while she was in high school in Laramie, Wyoming, nearly 40 years ago. She confronts the conflicting stories people have told themselves about the crime because of an unexpected development: the arrest of a former Laramie police officer accused in the murder.


Critic Reviews

Score: 5

Emma Specter • Vogue Dec 7, 2023

"...gripping without leaning into sensationalized, exploitative territory."

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Score: 4

Kat Rooney • PodcastReview.org Mar 15, 2023

"What makes the case so unsettling is not the murder alone, or its miserable mishandling by police, but the fact that neither of those things seem out of the ordinary for Laramie. The Coldest Case in Laramie, with its common plot points, spare sound design, and Barker’s sedate speaking style, if at times all grimly compelling, mostly left me disappointed and a bit bored. Though well reported, the story ends up feeling frictionless for its predictability. The Coldest Case in Laramie wants to be a story about the mundanity of violence in a small, unsuspecting town in the American West, and the systemic failings of the U.S. legal system. It’s about Wiley’s murder, yes, but it also wants to be about the complexity of the human interactions surrounding that murder. And it almost is about that, but falls short."

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Score: 4.4

Fiona Sturges • Financial Times Mar 6, 2023

"...there is a sense of the team going back to their roots and perhaps trying to relive past glories. Barker is very good: serious, thorough, thoughtful, while avoiding the navel-gazing that often afflicts podcasters with connections to the cases they are investigating. The access she gains to police files and recordings is remarkable. If there is a problem, it’s with the familiarity of both the story and the approach. There is much to admire in The Coldest Case in Laramie, though it’s hard to shake off the feeling that this kind of podcast has been done to death."

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Score: 3

James Marriot • The Times UK Mar 3, 2023

"...a world-weary New York Times reporter whose savourless narration comfortingly dispels the myth that American hacks are all more charismatic and overbearingly idealistic than their downtrodden British counterparts...whereas most true crime shows start with a mystery and aim for certainty, The Coldest Case in Laramie goes the other way: clarity to obfuscation. The show’s structure is sophisticatedly deflationary. The story doesn’t build, it just sort of gnomically fizzles. I suppose if you love to gawk over brutal murders this is a fairly highbrow way to do it. Just remember that I’m judging you."

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Score: 3.5

Anna Leszkiewicz • New Statesman Mar 1, 2023

"...this series does not dramatise the murder itself, but the journalist’s hunt for information years later... It’s atmospherically produced and, I suppose, bleakly interesting. But ultimately it all feels hollow. So why are we here, in a grim town rehashing a grim story once again? By Barker’s own admission, we are brought here by the media’s “desperation” for yet more content, and the relentless drive to find another story from which audiences cannot look away."

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Score: 5

Miranda Sawyer • The Guardian Feb 25, 2023

"Barker is excellent: dogged but fair, utterly reasonable, on the side of Wiley’s family. The podcast also becomes a story about memory and how human recall – even of such a shocking event – is never as accurate as we think. It’s a gripping but subtle listen that exposes the biases, hopes and assumptions that everyone brings to a case such as this. No amount of evidence can help with that."

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Score: 5

Henrietta McKervey • Irish Independent Feb 24, 2023

"In classic Serial style, the opening is evocative and sharp, the production clean and unshowy, and Barker acknowledges the often-impossible logical tangles life throws up. The Coldest Case In Laramie plays out over eight episodes, so put half a day aside. You’re going to need it."

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Score: 2.5

Anna Sale • Death, Sex, and Money Feb 24, 2023

"NYC based podcast companies: I beg of you, if you're going to descend on a small town in search of your next hit podcast, please don't spend the first several minutes explaining the place to us (ie trashing it) in a way that presumes none of us have a sense of it or care about it..."

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Score: 4

Ximena Smith • Stuff NZ Feb 24, 2023

"The series is a slow-burn, with earlier episodes laying the necessary groundwork for shocking revelations later on. I did wonder at certain points where on earth this was all going – particularly during some of the long, low-quality clips of archival audio, which required a certain degree of concentration – but in the end, a multitude of ‘aha!’ moments made the show’s gradual, methodical build-up a worthwhile listen."

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Score: 5

Laura Miller • Slate Feb 23, 2023

"The fantastic The Coldest Case in Laramie seems to be about a straightforward police cover-up. Then come the twists. That’s what’s exceptional about The Coldest Case in Laramie: the stunning amount of access Barker was granted once she arrived in town, a cornucopia of what audio producers call “good tape.” It doesn’t prove who killed Shelli Wiley, but it does demonstrate how an insistent desire for answers can lead us so very far away from the truth."

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Score: 4.5

Nicholas Quah • Vulture Feb 23, 2023

"Indeed, the podcast is perhaps best described as an extensive accounting of when the confusion around a horrific crime meets a gravitational pull for closure. In the absence of true information, all manner of things may rush to fill the void. Collateral damage is all but guaranteed. It’s a massive clusterfuck...what distinguishes this newest release is a palpable sense of darkness. Laramie is easily Serial Productions’ grimmest creation, which is an exciting prospect given the studio’s public-radio heritage. But it also feels like it’s missing something. Everything presented in the podcast is incredibly compelling, but it also feels, oddly, somewhat commonplace. Of course, familiar as the beats may be, none of this is to diminish the reporting and unquestionably important ideas driving The Coldest Case in Laramie. "

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