The Hunt for Typhoid Mary – BBC Northern Ireland Production review

Tea in the Sahara

Kev – Fiction Podcast Critic

This week guys I’ll frontload my review – The Hunt for Typhoid Mary – by positioning it as such. If you were captivated by The Battersea Poltergeist, I am fairly confident you’ll appreciate this enthralling podcast – WYKYK!

Scouring through records whilst using a modern-day lens distinguishing fact from fiction we find Ophelia Byrne — writer, producer, and narrator of this amplified deep dive into the life of Typhoid Mary – a BBC Northern Ireland Production.

The mysterious Mary Mallon, or Typhoid Mary to use her more familiar moniker was an asymptomatic typhoid carrier born in Ireland — who later emigrated to the US at the age of fifteen. In America, Mary takes on a variety of domestic positions before settling on household cook catering for New York’s rich clientele – proving a cliché recipe for disaster.

Providing catch me if you can high drama, Mary is also trailed by Dr. Sopher – The Typhoid Slayer! Sopher, an ambitious American sanitation engineer is desperate to add another feather to his cap by attesting that Mary is the very epicenter of NY typhoid-related illnesses.

Let us pause for context… Consider this, back in 1907 there wasn’t technically a cure for Typhoid, and as Mary was living in one of the busiest cities in the world was a historical moment in modern medical science. Mary would go on to become the first asymptomatic typhoid carrier identified in the English-speaking world, which even today is huge.

This podcast ultimately aims to dispel the myths cutting straight to the truth, or the closest version of the truth as historically possible. Your luck is also in if you enjoy a podcast with shifting perspectives to chew over.

So the stage is set, and the game is afoot as this series deftly cuts between investigative journalism, and expert discussions surrounding Mary’s life. To aid the listener, key events are dramatized by actors to bring this escalating powder keg to life in glorious high definition audio.

Will you get a bad case of FOMO if you pass on The Hunt for Typhoid Mary?

My honest answer is yes…. however, I can appreciate that within a post-covid-19 world some folk might not warm up to a podcast about typhoid. If you take typhoid out of the equation and focus on the story behind Mary, the truth, the lies, and the cat & mouse games between Mary & Sopher then this is a super eye-opening podcast to engage with over five episodes.

As the final episode slides into place, did anyone actually know, or understand Mary?
That is the ultimate question which is positioned right & centre for the listener – the sketchy backstory of who her parents were in Ireland. The fact that Mary knowingly knew she could transmit typhoid, yet continued to work as a cook for the masses is still insanely difficult to comprehend one hundred years later.

The score for – The Hunt for Typhoid Mary – this week looks like this – 4.7/5

The Hunt for Typhoid Mary is part of the BBC’S Assume Nothing series – and can be downloaded via BBC Sounds.

Thank you for taking the time to read my review of The Hunt for Typhoid Mary. Exclusives are what Tea in the Sahara does best – so if you have a podcast release that you would like reviewed please contact me via my socials or Cheers, Kev!


Direct quotations from Dr. George A Soper, where indicated, courtesy of the New York Academy of Medicine.
Series written, presented, and produced by Ophelia Byrne
Executive Editor: Andy Martin A BBC Northern Ireland production

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