Podcast Review: Body of Proof by Darrell Brown and Sophie Ellis

A recent transfer to Atlanta, and the resulting ninety-minute commute, led me down an audio content rabbit hole. My first venture into this world was Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. As the winner of the Booker of Bookers, Rushdie’s sprawling magical fiction merits its own review. With that said, I learned Midnight’s Children is not the best listening for a crime fiction aficionado.

I test-drove a few more highbrow and prize-winning novels hoping to enhance my cultural depth. I wanted to see what the “literary” stuff was all about. This noble experiment quickly fizzled. Prestige be damned, I’m lowbrow. I like crime.

This acceptance led to Body of Proof, a true-crime podcast by Darrel Brown and Sophie Ellis, produced for Amazon’s Audible and released in September 2019. I found it through the Audible Originals section.

I’ve never been a podcast consumer. I’ve always preferred reading to listening. A solid author, and their unique voice, seemed impossible to capture in the format. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood has a presence. A podcast of that same murder without a dash of Truman… not so much.

Despite my apprehension, I enjoyed the experience. Body of Proof is an analysis of David Gilroy’s conviction in the May 2010 murder of Suzanne Pilley, an event I was not familiar with. The supposed crime took place at a firm named Infrastructure Mangers Limited (IML) on the heavily referenced Thistle Street in Edinburgh, Scotland. Pilley’s body has never been found and no physical evidence has turned up. The podcast takes place after the conviction. It examines the prosecution’s case and Gilroy’s defense.

Suzanne Pilley was a 38-year-old bookkeeper at IML. David Gilroy, 47 years old at the time, was a director at the same firm. Gilroy was married, tPilley was single, and they embarked upon a romantic affair. The two pursued their tryst until things began to unravel.

When Pilley misses work, an investigation kicks off. The prosecution used circumstantial evidence to claim Gilroy killed Pilley, hid her body in the Thistle Street basement, and then dumped the remains in Western Scotland’s Argyll forest. Despite an absence of physical evidence, witnesses, or corpse, Gilroy is convicted of the murder. He is sentenced to life in prison, where he remains. Gilroy maintains his innocence to this day.

The ins and outs of the Scottish adversarial criminal justice system are closely examined and painted in a negative light. The prosecution’s evidence, as explained in the podcast, is thin. The case itself is straightforward and there is not much ground to cover. The creators try their best to squeeze five hours of content out of a situation better served through briefer examination. A two-hour presentation would have been significantly more enjoyable.

The production quality is solid. The investigators, Brown and Ellis, are experienced journalists. Their professionalism shines through.

The drawbacks are pronounced. American listeners (such as myself) may find the Scottish accents bracing. Every male voice sounded, to me, like Sean Connery after a four-day bender. There are no big twists or breathtaking reveals. If this was a boxer, the effort would be described as workmanlike. A fighter with a solid presence in the ring, good technique, straight punches, but no flair. No one is putting that fighter on the cover of a Wheaties box.

I’m a fiction reader and would have enjoyed a bit more scene-setting, descriptive language, and overall sensory engagement. The Argyll forest is lush and verdant and Salman Rushdie would drive that into my soul. The producers of Body of Proof missed the peat bogs and the highlands and the whisky smells. That miss is unfortunate.

Despite the faults, I enjoyed the experience. To those with a long commute, I recommend Body of Proof… but not with great enthusiasm. There was no true authorial voice, but there was a Scottish brogue, and that counts for something.

I am going to download some other true crime-type narrative piece today. It’s better than pop music.

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