Bank Heists and Wiseguys: "Crimetown" is the next true-crime podcast you should listen to

Before his death in 2016, at the age of 74, Vincent A. Cianci Jr. lived a life of many contradictions: He was, at one time, a young Republican mayor in the very Democratic city of Providence, R.I. He was an anticorruption candidate aided by the mob. Better known as “Buddy,” he was a trusted (and Jesuit-educated) champion for his city as well as a convicted felon.

These qualities, while making him a dubious role model, make Cianci a perfect addition to the cast of characters in the inaugural season of “Crimetown,” a podcast exploring the crime world of America, one city at a time. A production of Gimlet Media, the show is produced and hosted by Zac Stuart-Pontier and Marc Smerling, who produced the HBO documentary “The Jinx,” about the alleged murderer Robert Durst.

The city of Providence is a particularly rich choice for the subject of the show’s first season, as it also was home to Raymond Patriarca, the mob boss who ruled the New England mafia for decades, and who, along with his associates, features prominently in the series. Stuart-Pontier and Smerling don’t ignore the gravity of being involved with the mob, but they manage to highlight some humorous tales, including stories of bank vault heists, police officers riding garbage trucks while carrying shotguns and men with nicknames like Deuce and Buckles.

“Crimetown” joins a growing list of true-crime podcasts, but it is less concerned with questions of “Whodunnit?” than with “Why?” It treats each interviewee, whether murderer or mayor, with nuance and compassion. It gives voice to the stories of the wiseguys who didn’t grow up so wise, the ones simply trying to look out for a brother, show loyalty to a best friend or seek out, in an imperfect crew, the family they had never had. It is hard not to empathize with the men who, in the midst of their contradictions, often seem to be searching for connection.

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Celebrating Mass was wonderful the first time I did it 63 years ago. It is, if possible, even more wonderful today.
John Jay HughesApril 27, 2017
House Republicans are making a last-ditch effort to “reform and repeal” the Affordable Care Act before the clock runs out on the Trump administration’s first 100 days on Saturday, April 29.
Kevin ClarkeApril 27, 2017
Death-row inmate Ledell Lee. A ruling from the state Supreme Court allowing officials to use a lethal injection drug that a supplier says was misleadingly obtained cleared the way for Arkansas to execute Ledell Lee on Thursday, April 20, 2017, although he still had pending requests for reprieve. (Arkansas Department of Correction via AP)
To take Holy Communion in the face of death is to say that it is fellowship, and not food, that matters most.
Terrance KleinApril 26, 2017
A man rides a bicycle past a billboard with an image of Pope Francis April 26 ahead of the pontiff's April 28-29 visit to Cairo. (CNS photo/Amr Abdallah Dalsh, Reuters)
“Peace be with you” was the message of the Risen Jesus to his disciples on the first Easter, and it is the message Francis will bring to the Muslim and Christian communities in this land.
Gerard O'ConnellApril 26, 2017