The week in audio: The Shadow Over Innsmouth; Hunting Ghislaine and more

The concluding instalment of The Lovecraft Investigations does not disappoint. Plus, two gripping real-life mysteries of a very different kind

The Lovecraft Investigations: The Shadow Over Innsmouth | BBC Sounds

Hunting Ghislaine With John Sweeney | Global

Sunday Feature: The Myth and Mystery of Anja Thauer | BBC Radio 3/BBC Sounds

I have had a week of listening to different mysteries, and it has been most enjoyable, thanks very much. Absorbing, well-told, what’s-really-going-on? tales unfurling in your ears is a wonderful way to distract yourself from 2020’s killer combo of fear and boredom. Oh, the comfort of stories with a beginning, a middle and an actual, definite end! Plus, when there’s a scary element, even ironing becomes exciting.

Actually, domestic chores became too dangerous for me as I binged on episodes in the BBC’s third and final series of Julian Simpson’s modern take on HP Lovecraft, The Lovecraft Investigations. I had to go for a brisk stomp round the park or there’d have been a fire brigade situation. The Shadow Over Innsmouth, which started last week, follows on from two previous Radio 4 podcast series, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and The Whisperer in Darkness. You need to listen to both of these before you start on this one or you’ll be very confused: as host Matthew Heawood says at the beginning of last week’s episode, what began as “a simple investigation into the disappearance of a young man from a mental health facility in Rhode Island” has now expanded into something both personal, conspiratorial and deliciously occult.

Just so you know, this is fiction: but Heawood and his compadre Kennedy Fisher are played so brilliantly by Barnaby Kay and Jana Carpenter that they’ve started to feel like real people. I find myself rooting for the cynical, intrepid Fisher in particular, despite this series’ dark questions around who she is and what she’s really been up to. This is a new element, and means that our two heroes are not working together as closely as before; Fisher is in a small coastal town in the US, Heawood in Mosul, though there might be a sinister connection between both places…

As ever, the production is exemplary, sounds and atmosphere changing as characters move around; and the storytelling is excellent too. In episode two, there’s a lot of exposition about the past: Simpson deals with this neatly by having a researcher chat through findings with a sceptical Fisher. And, lordy, we all know how clumsily that exposition could have been done.

I loved both Charles Dexter Ward and The Whisperer, so it’s no surprise that I’m taken with Innsmouth: so much so that I begged the publicist for more episodes (and no, this does not happen often). It’s the combination of realistic dialogue, genuine spookiness and swift pace, as well as the acknowledg

ment that the listener has a brain. You’ll get no spoilers from me. But I wouldn’t listen while holding a full paint pot, for instance.

Hunting Ghislaine with John Sweeney
Hunting Ghislaine with John Sweeney Photograph: LBC

Another mystery, this one real-life and rather more sordid: Hunting Ghislaine, Global’s podcast about Jeffrey Epstein’s supposed enabler, Ghislaine Maxwell. Presented and researched by veteran investigative reporter John Sweeney, this is as gripping as all his work. I don’t always agree with Sweeney, but he really is an immense storyteller: his script is fantastic, his interviewing to the point, his presentation fiery and compelling.

Last week’s brilliant opening episode (of six), which looked at Robert Maxwell’s relationship with his youngest daughter, painted a swift and devastating portrait of the revolting media tycoon, and expressed some sympathy for Ghislaine. “I feel sorry for her up to the moment her father dies,” said Sweeney. “Because he has formed and deformed her.”

I can’t say I’m looking forward to the rest of the series, as grooming and rape of underage girls is not really my bag, but Sweeney will no doubt make this a fascinating listen. As he says, we know the “where” – Ghislaine Maxwell is currently in a New York remand prison – but what he’s trying to find out is the “why”.

Anja Thauer.
Anja Thauer. Photograph: Klaus Zimmermann/ Deutsche Grammophon

And, finally, on Radio 3, a quieter mystery. The Myth and Mystery of Anja Thauer, to be broadcast tomorrow at 6.45pm, isn’t quite a whodunnit either: more of a whowasit. Two years ago, music journalist Phil Hebblethwaite bought an LP in a secondhand shop, a rendition of Dvořák’s Cello Concerto played by a brilliant German soloist he’d never heard of, Anja Thauer. Thauer killed herself in 1973, aged 28, and calmly and meticulously, Hebblethwaite tries to piece together who she was. Her story, though small, is both sad and revealing, and it’s a privilege to join the dogged Hebblethwaite as he gradually tracks down his elusive subject.

Three Radio 4 programmes about black British identity

My Albion
BBC Sounds

Zakia Sewell
Zakia Sewell Photograph: Daniel Adhami

Zakia Sewell is interested in British folk culture, especially English folk music. As a teenager, she was obsessed with Pentangle’s version of the traditional song The Cuckoo. But being of mixed heritage (her dad is British, her mum Caribbean), Sewell wondered whether such a song could ever really belong to her. This gorgeously produced four-part series takes her from her love of The Cuckoo into an exploration of Albion, the mythical land of old. In the first episode she plays folk tunes with her dad, talks to musician Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne and, bravely, has a crack at morris dancing. “I couldn’t quite relax into it,” she admits.

Thinking Aloud
BBC Sounds
Last week, Laurie Taylor talked to Luke de Noronha, author of Deporting Black Britons, about the recent Home Office policy of deporting people with a criminal conviction of longer than 12 months “back” to where it’s deemed they belong, usually the Caribbean or African countries. De Noronha’s expertise is in deportations to Jamaica, and he talks about several heartbreaking cases. Most people deported from Britain to Jamaica spend at least a year homeless and without work, due to bureaucracy and lack of local connections. Families are ripped apart simply because people haven’t got the right papers, despite the UK being their home since they were small.

The Untold: Young, Rural and Black
BBC Sounds
Twenty-four-year-old Khady Gueye has lived in Gloucestershire all her life. When she saw the resurgence of the US Black Lives Matter movement earlier this year, she wanted to show solidarity, so she and a friend decided to organise a small event in June in the Forest of Dean. Initially all went well, but local opposition grew: some of it based on concerns about Covid, some of it on dodgier grounds. The fast-talking, considerate and engaging Gueye was threatened on social media: “I really naively didn’t expect the response we got.” Local MPs used the words “all lives matter”, others resigned. The show builds up to the event – if it goes ahead, what will be the consequences?


Miranda Sawyer

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
The week in audio: The Archers; Buried; The Sound: Mystery of Havana Syndrome and more
While Ambridge is left reeling, new podcasts delve deep into a waste scandal in Derry and a sinister Cuban mystery, and Zoe Ball gets reading

Miranda Sawyer

29, Jan, 2023 @11:30 AM

Article image
The week in audio: Unlicensed; The Name Is DeSantis; Today; Room 5; Away From Home
A US crime drama takes a weird-noir turn, James Naughtie analyses Ron DeSantis, and the Ukrainian football team with pluck on their side

Miranda Sawyer

12, Nov, 2022 @5:00 PM

Article image
The week in audio: Joanna & the Maestro; Conversations from a Long Marriage; Real Money; Ken Bruce
Joanna Lumley delights in musical exchanges with her real husband, and turns up the comedy with a fictional spouse; the excellent Aleks Krotoski tells the story of cryptocurrency Tether; and Ken Bruce pulls a shocker

Miranda Sawyer

21, Jan, 2023 @5:00 PM

Article image
The week in audio: Uncanny; Just One Thing; Built to Thrive and more
It’s time for more spooky goings-on from the host of The Battersea Poltergeist. And two podcasts that promise to make you feel better

Miranda Sawyer

20, Oct, 2021 @12:57 PM

Article image
The week in audio: Angela Rayner, Chris Bryant, Annie Mac and more radio sit-ins
Angela Rayner and Chris Bryant excelled as talk radio understudies on LBC, while Annie Mac and Deb Grant were impressive guest hosts on 6 Music

Miranda Sawyer

23, Jul, 2022 @4:00 PM

Article image
The week in audio: Love, Janessa; The Comb; Arctic Monkeys: Believe the Hype and more
A global catfish scam and a Somalian woman’s adolescence make for two gripping World Service shows, while Sheffield’s finest still sound good on the dancefloor

Miranda Sawyer

04, Feb, 2023 @5:00 PM

Article image
The week in audio: the best of Mental Health Awareness Week
Stations from Radio X to Jazz FM, and podcast hosts from musicians to neuroscientists delved deep into the vagaries of the human brain

Miranda Sawyer

15, May, 2021 @4:00 PM

Article image
The week in audio: Death of a Headmaster; Did Ya Know and more
A thoughtful tribute from a former pupil remembers murdered headteacher Philip Lawrence 25 years on from his death

Miranda Sawyer

12, Dec, 2020 @5:00 PM

Article image
The week in audio: Life Sentence; A Mother Tongue; dot com: The Wikipedia Story and more
Every minute counts in a sound-rich climate crisis drama; Axel Kacoutié speaks everybody’s language; and on the trail of Wikipedia nerds with Katie Puckrik

Miranda Sawyer

20, Nov, 2021 @5:00 PM

Article image
The week in audio: Rethink; 5 Live Breakfast - review
The post-Covid world was addressed in a fascinating BBC series

Miranda Sawyer

27, Jun, 2020 @4:00 PM