“If there is one takeaway from this story, it should be this—the criminal justice system is not just deeply flawed, it is broken.” That is how attorney and U.S. Institute of Peace senior fellow Chaudry summarizes the murder conviction and appeals of Adnan Syed, the subject of the Serial podcast.
The author, whose brother was Adnan’s best friend, approached Sarah Koenig with Adnan’s story to set in motion the popular podcast, “an international phenomenon and the most successful podcast ever produced.” With more than 100 documents and letters spread throughout the book, Chaudry walks through the state’s case, issues with Adnan’s attorney (who was disbarred a few months after her client’s conviction), and other pieces of the story that don’t stack up. She gives the readers more background on Adnan’s family and how his conviction tore them apart, the reward paid to a key player in his prosecution, and how Adnan has survived his incarceration. The author peppers the narrative with Adnan's letters, which provide his perspective and reflections on the legal process and his life behind bars. Chaudry, who works to counter violent extremism, outlines the bias that pervaded Adnan’s prosecution and provides context for the Muslim community and how first-generation American-Muslim teens navigate its strict cultural mores. Her writing is clear, eloquent, and engaging, and her case is convincing. After Serial, Chaudry recruited accomplished legal and investigative minds to track down mistakes, conflicts, and new evidence for Adnan's case. These insights seem to exonerate Adnan and point to a different suspect. Any murder is a tragedy, but a young, potentially innocent suspect sentenced to life in prison after a cursory, slipshod investigation full of cultural bias—and defended by an inept attorney—only magnifies the travesty.
For Serial and true-crime fans, this book is a page-turner perfect for a quiet weekend.