the gentlewoman

The Reader

Starlee Kine, 37, is the compelling voice of Mystery Show; the podcast series that solves such mysteries of modern life as, “How tall exactly is Jake Gyllenhal?” or “Why did a video rental shop disappear the day after someone rented the film Must Love Dogs?” An alumna of the much-adored podcast This American Life, where she started out as an intern, Starlee writes for publications including The New York Times and New York magazine when she’s not out solving mysteries. But who is the enigmatic writer and radio producer from California behind the Internet sensation? Frankie Mathieson called her up for some answers.

Starlee Kine

Frankie: I must say that Mystery Show is quite unlike any other podcast I’ve heard. It’s quite difficult to describe it.

Starlee: Well, it’s a show where I solve mysteries. People submit mysteries to me, where the answers can’t be Google-able. It’s important that I solve them, but it’s not entirely about the solution. I really wanted to do a show where the burden wasn’t solely on finding the answer. The show’s as much about the sleuthing and the casework too – the getting from point A to point C.

F: Have you been inundated with mysteries since the show first aired last July? What’s the weirdest one you’ve received?

S: I get about 30 mysteries a day at this point. Do you know what I get asked about the most, though – what happened between Julianna Marguiles and Archie Panjabi, who play Alicia and Kalinda in the The Good Wife? People want to know what the real deal is with that final scene in the bar. Maybe I’ll tackle that one next!

F: Do you assume a character to solve a mystery?

S: I don’t start smoking a pipe like Sherlock Holmes or anything, but it definitely feels different to reporting a story for This American Life. For Mystery Show, it’s just me. That was a very deliberate decision. If I went out with a producer it would feel like I was reporting, not solving a mystery. The character’s still me – I’m not faking anything – but I’m playing a version of me without the rest of the stuff that clogs up my life. That allows me a more natural entry into the lives of whomever the mystery intersects with. I think as the show evolves what I wear might evolve too. I would love to have a special detective line designed for me.

F: You should wear a raincoat like Columbo.

S: I watched Columbo all the time as a kid. I have a fuzzy memory of dressing up like him in third or fourth grade to do a class presentation on something that had nothing to do with Columbo. I remember standing in front of the class, patting my pockets, feigning I had forgotten my notes, like Peter Falk used to do. And for my 16th birthday, my mom got a Columbo impersonator! I remember being mortified. I’m sure there was a lot of, “Mom, you’ve ruined my life forever!”

F: Did you read crime fiction, growing up?

S: I read a lot of the children’s series Encyclopaedia Brown, which are about a boy detective named Leroy Brown. I loved puzzles and riddles and games, which are, essentially, what mysteries are. I also loved Charles Dickens and even though those aren’t straightforward mysteries, they’re full of clues, like Pip’s real identity in Great Expectations.

F: I read in articles from as far back as 2006 that you’re writing a book, It IS Your Fault. Are you still working on it?

S: Technically, yes. In the same way that the guy I went out with in fifth grade is technically still my boyfriend because I never broke up with him. Honestly? The book was about the self-help industry and I just couldn’t get into it. I was going on these retreats and I would get so bored. The only thing that interested me was the people and why they were there: everyone’s lost, everyone’s looking for answers. It’s the same thing with Mystery Show: I seek out these people and they keep me going. The show is about how things connect and I love that feeling when you’re really into what you do and it feels like everything else you do connects to it. Mysteries connect me with people much better than self-help ever did.

Interview by Frankie Mathieson. Photograph courtesy of Starlee Kine. Have you got a mystery that needs solving? Submit it to Starlee via the email address mysteries@gimletmedia.com. Would you like to be the next featured reader? Then sign-up sister and tell us about yourself!