I don’t know why I like documentaries about art forgeries and podcasts about art heists. Maybe it’s because we don’t just own art—we experience art—and thus when we lose an artwork, it feels like we’ve lost something of ourselves. It’s all so personal.

Indeed, when Anthony Amore, the Gardner Museum's Director of Security, and podcast host Kelly Horan encounter the rosewood stretcher that once held Rembrandt’s “Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee” at the beginning of the first ep of Last Seen, they talk as if it’s the painting itself that’s the victim: “It’s a crime scene really….It’s like the chalk line of the body at a murder scene.”

Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, Rembrandt, 1633

Last Seen is a collaboration of WBUR, one of several NPR affiliates in Boston, and The Boston Globe. It’s a Serial-esque investigation into the 1990 robbery of 13 art pieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the largest unsolved art heist in history. Producers claim access to never-before-seen police reports, diaries, and interviews, and like Serial Season 1, there’s a tip line for listeners, presumably meaning the podcast’s narrative arc is still malleable—a treat for the Reddit detectives out there, I’m sure.

The first episode aired Sept. 16 (Episode 2 is up today), meaning we’ve had just an initial taste of what hosts Kelly Horan and Jack Rodolico have in store. I’m unfamiliar with WBUR’s other podcast offerings, but only 30 seconds in, it’s obvious that the production level is up there with the best narrative nonfiction podcasts, such as WBEZ’s This American Life and WNYC’s Radiolab. Art is about intimacy, and in the crisp sound design—you can literally hear the museum’s HVAC air conditioning unit whirling—listeners will feel right beside Horan and Amore in the attic.

Also of note for sound design nerds is the music placement is just really sophisticated. It’s used repeatedly in the first episode to evoke a certain pathos, so when Horan describes Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, we get a pretty rock-solid mental image, but we also get a feeling for the awe the speaker feels—and the sadness that this is just a copy. I also enjoyed the way music is used to fade into the few, short ad breaks in a way that feels respectful to the audience’s engagement (not just randomly throwing an ad break in when you feel most excited). Podcasts have been toying with how to do ads for a while now, so it’s probably worth noting that this show does it very unobtrusively.

Small details like this make it feel like the producers weren’t just trying to cash in on the true-crime frenzy, but genuinely are very passionate about the topic at hand. (The Boston Globe, for its part, has been reporting on developments to the case for decades.) This respect for the topic can be seen even in how Horan describes the art: (about the aforementioned “Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee”) “In it, Jesus, serene rises above a fishing boat that is being battered in a mighty gale. Alongside Christ’s apostles is a face we recognize: It’s Rembrandt, gazing out at us.” The vivid imagery gives the sense that she’s at the very least a patron of the arts, if not an artist itself. It’s important to the stakes of the show, somehow, that those involved in the search care deeply about recovering the items. The artwork feels sacred to our narrators, lifting this up from a run-of-the-mill whodunit to something more spiritual, like a real-life Lord of the Rings.

But even sans the mood and technical prowess, a good true-crime podcast needs a good story—and it seems they’ve uncovered one here. It’s eerie. The motion sensors at the museum tracked the robbers’ movements, so you can literally track their path (as the museum has done in the video below). And the first episode cliffhanger--that the m.o. for one painting’s theft doesn’t match that of the other 12—adds a nice bit of complexity. Wait, was there more than one robbery?

There’s not much criticism to be had, but if we’re to nitpick it’s that I’m not exactly sure why there are two hosts. You’ve noticed I’ve focused almost entirely on Horan—it’s because she does about 80% of the narrating in the first episode. The hosts don’t interact at all, and Rodolico just pops in to do part of one interview. It’s unclear if the two hosts are doing this interview together. It’s common in news stories for there to be a lead reporter, supported by additional reporting by other staffers, but in audio, it really makes sense to give us one voice to get the story from. If they want to use two hosts, hopefully they'll interact more in the future, like Sarah Koenig did with fellow producers when trying to wrap her brain around complexing discoveries in Serial Season 1.

Regardless the story has me hooked. After all, why steal art if you’re not going to resell it? In this whodunit, the elusive motive is as fascinating as the crime itself.