In the vein of Serial or In the Dark, Up and Vanished follows a journalist as he pursues answers, independently examining a cold case to see what the police or the media may have missed.
However, unlike other podcasts of this emerging genre, host Payne Lindsay isn’t a journalist per se, but rather a documentarian. He makes the medium switch with perhaps too much ease, approaching the podcast with a friendly, likeable demeanour but perhaps too cavalierly: his first “breakthrough” is his grandmother, and his decision to pursue the case at all comes after he is approached with an important investigator in the case: a resource unique among this type of podcast but probably not used to his full advantage.
The disappearance of 11-year-old Tara Grinstead, a case involving beauty pageants, evidence mishandling and angry potential ex-boyfriends/ex-students, is compelling; however, professionalism in the investigation is lacking. Lindsay consistently relies on consultations of his friends for things like medical opinions or questions. Not only that, but as his own podcast begins to bring the case back into the public narrative, he fails to question the way that he may begin to affect those involved in the open case.
Overall, this lack of consistency or thoroughness is surprising. While he may spectate on police policy and the mishandling of evidence in one aspect of the case, Lindsay will pick up a lead and discard it without doing the most basic checks in another.
The case is interesting, but the podcast is frustrating. Sometimes there is a lack of clarity as he interviews people, leaving you unsure as to what is speculation, what is an anecdote and what is important evidence. This is exacerbated sometimes by no follow through on important or shocking statements.
You may find yourself compelled to be forgiving and keep listening, however, by exciting developments that are handed to Lindsay later in the case and a high production quality with an eerie and wonderful theme song – the real true-crime podcast essential.
Image : Alan Cleaver @ Flickr