Looking for your next audio fix? If you’re a fan of Sweet Bobby, tune into the Unravel: Snowball podcast – a similar tale of control and deception, woven by a charming entrepreneur.
Sweet Bobby was *the* podcast of 2021, documenting the incredible story of Kirat Assi, a British DJ who was duped into a 10-year relationship based on a complex labyrinth of lies.
With gaslighting, coercive control and con artistry all featuring heavily, it revolved around the question, “How well do we know the people we love?” And perhaps more disturbingly, “What motivates those close to us to pretend to be what they’re not?”
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If Sweet Bobby kept us hooked throughout the last months of 2021, however, now we’re looking to horizons new for our next fresh audio fix. And Unravel: Snowball, a gripping podcast series published by Australia’s ABC Radio, and available on BBC Sounds, may be just the ticket.
Like Sweet Bobby, the show Unravel: Snowball follows an elaborate trail of smoke and mirrors – this time led by Californian entrepreneur Lezlie Manukian. Unlike the mystery protagonist at the heart of Sweet Bobby, Lezlie appears in real life on multiple occasions: but with a whole lot of intrigue floating beneath the surface.
This investigation has a personal twist, too: it is hosted by New Zealand radio producer Ollie Ward, whose brother, Greg, was once married to Lezlie. In fact, the show opens on their wedding day, and Ollie feeling vaguely unsettled by the event – although at the time, he cannot articulate why.
Months later, newlyweds Lezlie and Greg – who first met at a bar while travelling in London – are in crisis. Lezlie owns a restaurant in their local town which was started using a loan secured by Greg’s parents. Lezlie, a bubbly and convincing character, had reassured her in-laws that she knew exactly what she was doing; and she’d also talked about her million-dollar trust fund that she wasn’t able to access overseas.
As the situation as the restaurant goes downhill, Lezlie returns to the US, leaving both Gregg and his parents, who end up losing their home and their life savings. The last time Greg ever sees his wife, at the airport, she reportedly tells him, “Greg, the snowball is about to hit you” – an ominous warning that inspired the title of the series.
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Little was Greg to know at the time that he was far from alone in his quandary. Unravel: Snowball is his brother Ollie’s attempt to get to the heart of what happened to his family – and in doing so, he uncovers an astonishing chain of deception, heartache and broken dreams that have shadowed Lezlie all over the world.
From New Zealand to London, Hawaii, and Lezlie’s home state of California, Greg’s investigations bring him face-to-face with other men and women who have apparently been duped. This, it seems, is a woman who has form for setting up hip new restaurants as a part of a fun and glamorous lifestyle – only for them to stall a few months in. Cue: debt, bar brawls and partners left stranded, with some pretty surreal extras – a literary agent, and film rights – thrown in on the side lines.
What’s particularly gripping about Unravel: Snowball is that Lezlie is no lone-target operator: along the way it seems that friends, accountants and even her own parents are lured in by her complex concoction of lies and make-believe.
Also, while Sweet Bobby was unable to cut to the core on the issue of scammer motivation, the storytelling in Unravel: Snowball is able to provide a slightly clearer picture. This is in part thanks to the show’s dramatic finale, which sees Ollie travel to the States to confront the woman who was once his sister-in-law, in the supermarket where she now works.
The resulting conversation is perhaps the most compelling part of the whole series: providing a fascinating insight into the mind of a woman who, after all that has gone before, seems pretty reasonable and nice. And in that moment, you realise that – along with everyone else – you’ve fallen for the con.
Listen to all eight episodes of Unravel: Snowball on BBC Sounds.
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