Growing up, did you have that family friend (or better yet, relative) who told all the good stories? You know the ones I’m talking about—the stories where partway through, a more responsible adult would reach over and cover your innocent ears to protect you from some salacious detail or colorful phrase. With True North Heists, narrator Colm Feore (recently seen on Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy and House of Cards) is that friend.
And there’s hardly a responsible adult in sight.
True crime podcasts usually walk the line between suspense and horror, trying to outdo the last big hit with an even more nightmarish tale. True North Heists keeps the gritty flair, with Feore’s dark and dramatic narration, soundscapes that make us feel like we’re in the middle of the action, and plenty of interviews with experts if not the criminals themselves.
What makes this series different is that you probably aren’t going to have nightmares about the Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist of 2012 (one of the most valuable thefts in the country’s history). Turns out, Canadian history is filled with colorful crooks and their crazy capers. Over the course of 10 half-hour episodes, we learn about some of the best.
The first episode tells the story of Edwin Boyd, a dashingly handsome WWII veteran with dreams of becoming a movie star. Instead, he found an outlet for his dramatic inclinations through robbing banks. Once he learned not to strengthen his nerves beforehand with half a bottle of whiskey, that is. Not to be outdone, the second episode is about helicopter hijacker Rory Shayne, who also used a cab and even commandeered some poor honeymooners’ sailboat to flee the scene of his crimes in the 1970s and ’80s.
And so it goes, back and forth through history, from one beyond-belief misadventure to the next. It’s so easy to get caught up in the stories that we forget a simple and obvious truth: the best crimes are the ones we don’t hear about, with the criminals who remain unnamed. “He who digs a pit will fall into it,” Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes, adding, “and a serpent will bite him who breaks through a wall.” So before we get too caught up in our admiration of these larger-than-life, fearless, wannabe-folk-heroes, we should remember that they foolishly ignored the inevitable.
While the episodes never get too tawdry, neither are they for sensitive ears. None of the bad words that bad men sometimes use are edited out, and occasionally their methods (while perhaps amusing) aren’t in the best taste. Still, for those of us who love imaginative real-life stories that sound like fiction and the reminder that crime doesn’t pay, with a gentle wink and a nudge True North Heists rises above the soul-crushing horrors that typically define the true crime genre. (Audible)