The ABC’s Newest True-Crime Podcast ‘Trace’ Is Already Blowing Up On iTunes

A podcast investigating a cold case murder? We're sold.

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Serial was a cultural phenomenon like few others. Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder’s radio investigation into Hae Min Lee’s murder ranked number one on iTunes before it even technically debuted in 2014, inspired “five million online detectives“, and had a tangible impact on the case of alleged-murderer Adnan Syed.

Now Trace, a podcast investigation of 1980 Melbourne cold case, looks set to inspire a similar level of obsession, with the first episode jumping to number one on iTunes Australia’s podcast chart within a day of its release on Wednesday.

The ABC series explores the murder of 38-year-old Maria James in Thornbury, who was found stabbed to death in June 1980. Unlike Serial, it’s a cold case investigation: no one was ever convicted of James’ murder, an attack involving 68 stab wounds described by police as “bizarre“.

In a spine-chilling overview of the series, the Trace team outlines everything currently known of the day in question: how Maria had only earlier told her son, “if anything happens to me, look after your brother”, and how her ex-husband John James, whom she remained on good terms with, heard her arguing with someone while he waited on the phone.

We also know that John panicked when Maria did not return to the phone, later forced his way into her bookshop and ultimately found Maria’s body inside. Hidden to him was the fact that her killer was still in the room.

Now, ABC investigative reporter Rachael Brown has teamed up with Maria’s sons, Mark and Adam, and retired local cop Ron Iddles to explore previously overlooked evidence and the prime leads: a scorned lover, a local loner who tried to sell Maria sexual magazines, a Telecom worker who committed suicide days after being questioned, and a local Catholic Church.

It’s terrifying stuff, and I absolutely need to know more. Check out the first episode here.