Genres: True Crime
Narrator: Rabia Chaudry
Serial told Only Part of the Story…
In early 2000, Adnan Syed was convicted and sentenced to life plus thirty years for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, a high school senior in Baltimore, Maryland. Syed has maintained his innocence, and Rabia Chaudry, a family friend, has always believed him. By 2013, after almost all appeals had been exhausted, Rabia contacted Sarah Koenig, a producer at This American Life, in hopes of finding a journalist who could shed light on Adnan’s story. In 2014, Koenig's investigation turned into Serial, a Peabody Award-winning podcast with more than 500 million international listeners
But Serial did not tell the whole story. In this compelling narrative, Rabia Chaudry presents new key evidence that she maintains dismantles the State's case: a potential new suspect, forensics indicating Hae was killed and kept somewhere for almost half a day, and documentation withheld by the State that destroys the cell phone evidence -- among many other points -- and she shows how fans of Serial joined a crowd-sourced investigation into a case riddled with errors and strange twists. Adnan's Story also shares Adnan’s life in prison, and weaves in his personal reflections, including never-before-seen letters. Chaudry, who is committed to exonerating Adnan, makes it clear that justice is yet to be achieved in this much examined case.
A friend and coworker once mentioned to me this podcast called Serial. I had never listened to podcasts before and was unsure I would even like it. But, this friend said the magic words: “If you like true crime documentaries, and I know you do, you will LOVE this podcast”. Obviously, this friend knows me way too well! So, I dove into Serial and devoured it! And when that wasn’t enough, I started search out every related podcast about the case. This lead me to Undisclosed. I will admit I was hesitant; I mean, Undisclosed was NOT trying to present an unbiased view. They were quite clear in their believe that Adnan was innocent. I didn’t disagree necessarily, but I wasn’t sure I would be able to listen to a podcast that could end up sounding like spin. Thankfully, Rabia, Susan, and Colin are amazing and everything they presented they backed up.
Now, let me be clear: You do not have to agree that Adnan is innocent to engage in this story. Frankly, while of course Rabia and a few others do feel he is innocent, there is a great deal of evidence that points to issues with the legal system that everyone should be concerned about. So, this book is worth the read/listen for so many other reasons beyond just the idea that an innocent man could be imprisoned.
Adnan’s Story is at times a rehash of information already known if you listened to serial and to undisclosed. I was worried this book would just read like a transcript of the podcasts. I was wrong. The story is told in a more retrospective view. Chaudry isn’t always linear in her telling either, sometimes jumping around to personal stories or things that we come to learn later that would have been helpful to know at a previous time. But, what struck me the most was the personal family stories. The stories regarding Adnan’s brothers moved me to tears. The effect an event like this would have on any family is monumental so getting the real life effects on Adnan’s brothers is heartbreaking. (And is anyone else dying to know where Tanvir is now??)
Like I said, you need not believe that Adnan is innocent to be outraged. His lawyer was awful, and the state was, at best, sketchy in their handling of the case (trust me, ‘sketchy’ is being incredibly nice about their actions). All I could think while reading/listening was “This could happen to me”. The frightening thing to take away from this beyond the actual person that this happened to is that it could happen to anyone. What if you had a lawyer who came highly recommended? You would trust her. You would expect that she would hold the state accountable for what is legally required. You would feel that surely your best interests would be represented and she would do everything to ensure your life. You would feel that the state would, without question, be honest and forthcoming. And when you realized that everything you thought was true and correct had failed you, you would be stuck scrambling in a system that does NOT make it easy to correct mistakes. There are so many wrongful convictions stories. If you need examples, look at The Innocence Project. Look at independent accountability groups dedicated to righting these wrongs. Yet, wrongful convictions continue to happen. I urge you to think of the entire story this way: Do you think Adnan Syed got a fair trial? Was he provided with a competent attorney to represent him? Was he provided with the evidence against him in advance as required by law? I think you will agree with me-whatever you think of Adnan, he certainly didn’t get a fair trial. You will also quickly agree that our legal system is pretty broken and while we have these lofty goals and flowery words of justice, the reality is not nearly as flowery…Frankly, it scares the shit out of me.
As a narrator, I loved Chaudry. I always enjoyed hearing her on the podcasts, she has good diction, appropriate pace, and overall, a very engaging voice. I think she did a wonderful job narrating her words!
- POV: 1st
- Tears: yes
- Trope: Biography/True Crime
- Series/Standalone: Stand Alone
- Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »Sort of! At this point, Adnan is still in prison and while you know he was granted a new trial, you have no idea when or if that will occur. « Hide Spoiler
Serial Podcast, Undisclosed Podcast, or other true crime books…then you will probably like Adnan’s Story!