West Cork: Who killed Sophie Toscan du Plantier? A real-life murder mystery

West Cork audiobook review

What is this about?: This is an Audible original series that follows Sam Bungey and Jennifer Forde as they investigate the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier in Ireland in 1996, and suspect Ian Bailey, a journalist who has lived since the 1996 under a cloud of suspicion.

What else is this about?: The series investigates the culture of a small town in Ireland, the police and their investigation, as well as one of the most important witnesses they relied on. It is about as well rounded as you can get, and I would guess for fans of Serial.


This much we do know: Sophie Toscan du Plantier was murdered days before Christmas in 1996, her broken body discovered at the edge of her property near the town of Schull in West Cork, Ireland. The rest remains a mystery.

Gripping, yet ever elusive, join the real-life hunt for answers in the year’s first not-to-be-missed, true-crime series. Investigative journalist, Sam Bungey, and documentarian, Jennifer Forde, guide listeners through the brutal, unsolved murder and the tangled web of its investigation, while introducing an intricate cast of characters, a provocative prime suspect, and a recovering community whose story begs to be heard.

West Cork is an Audible original series for fans of Serial, and podcasts that are similar (full disclosure though I must admit, I am making that comparison without having listened to Serial).

Podcasts are something that mystify me, and I generally don’t listen to them, and I didn’t understand how Serial became so popular. I thought this might be a good way to delve into the medium and figure out how I feel about it.  It is to me, an audible documentary, with Sam Bungey and Jennifer Forde investigating and following the Sophie du Plantier case in Ireland.

This is a bit of a slow beginning with 2-3 episodes setting the scene by describing Sophie, and her background, before around  the suspect, Ian Bailey is introduced. On the one hand, setting the scene of a small town in Ireland, and letting readers understand who Sophie is matters greatly because she left behind a son, who now has a family of his own. And he has been searching for justice for his mother since her death – the series is book-ended by this reminder of who Sophie was, and that her family is still searching for answers.

On the flip side, it is slow moving, and I kept going because I was curious. Did I want to know about the culture of West Cork and what it meant to be an outsider? No, but it made sense to me by the time I finished it.

The series picks up when Ian Bailey, a journalist was accused of killing Sophie. The series investigates who he is, drawing a picture of a man who never fit what “normal” was for West Cork, and investigating his numerous flaws as well.

Bailey undergoes an interesting transformation in the series, and over the years as his case progresses from a man who has no real idea of how he appears to others into a man who is realising that appearances do matter in the court of public opinion. Bailey is also a man who wants to court public interest, and almost seems to crave it, for he has never been more relevant than as a suspect in this case.

The middle of this series is by far the most interesting parts to it, as the investigators also delve into the case built against Bailey, and how the police relied on a star witness, who years later changed her story exonerating Bailey – which I did not expect. It’s almost out of a movie, but it’s not, it’s real.

Sam and Jennifer are both narrators in this, and they handle interviews with people with care, letting them tell their (various) stories without interruption. For someone who has never listened to something like this before, it did take some getting used to, as did getting into this real life story itself.

This is free for download until 9 May.


  • Aoife says:

    I just started listening to it (am 3 or 4 episodes in). I’m actually into true crime but not so much into the drawn-out ones (I could never get into Serial and also TV-documentaries of the type Making a Murderer/The Keepers etc. aren’t quite my cup of tea), I’m more into the ‘one case per episode’-ones so I also needed some time to get used to the speed with which this story is told but it is a really interesting story.

    • Verushka says:

      It was after the 4th episode or so that I thought this story really got engaging. Each episode is pretty self-contained I thought — what others have you listened to that are one case per episode?

      • Aoife says:

        Yes, I’m on episode 6 now and it’s really fascinating.

        Well, I have a thing for black comedy true crime podcasts, which are not everyone’s taste but I really like All Killa no Filla (about Serial Killers), S’laughter (UK & Irish crime) and Wine and Crime (they take a topic, e.g. Arson and then talk about cases involving arson).

        More serious are Unsolved Murders and Real Crime Profile (actually not one-case per episode, they usually need more episodes but usually not that many)

  • I do really like true crime stories; I find them interesting. Sorry about the slow start, but it does make sense to have that background. Bailey seems intriguing!! I like podcasts but I haven’t listened to many as of yet, including Serial, though I’ve heard good things.


    • Verushka says:

      It picked up eventually, it was just a slow start. I looked up Bailey and tried to make sense of him versus what this said about hi,. In regards to Bailey, intriguing is definitely the right word for him!

  • Lucille Grant says:

    Does the podcast have subtitles? I am hard of hearing so audible only is not something I can use. Thanks.

  • janette says:

    Verushka, thanks so much for the post.Really thank you! Keep writing.

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