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The Spider and the Fly

A Writer, a Murderer and a Story of Obsession

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


Winner of the Washington State Book Award for Memoir

“Extraordinarily suspenseful and truly gut-wrenching. . . . A must-read.”—Gillian Flynn, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Gone Girl

In this superb work of literary true crime—a spellbinding combination of memoir and psychological suspense—a female journalist chronicles her unusual connection with a convicted serial killer and her search to understand the darkness inside us.

"Well, well, Claudia. Can I call you Claudia? I’ll have to give it to you, when confronted at least you’re honest, as honest as any reporter. . . . You want to go into the depths of my mind and into my past. I want a peek into yours. It is only fair, isn’t it?"—Kendall Francois

In September 1998, young reporter Claudia Rowe was working as a stringer for the New York Times in Poughkeepsie, New York, when local police discovered the bodies of eight women stashed in the attic and basement of the small colonial home that Kendall Francois, a painfully polite twenty-seven-year-old community college student, shared with his parents and sister.

Growing up amid the safe, bourgeois affluence of New York City, Rowe had always been secretly fascinated by the darkness, and soon became obsessed with the story and with Francois. She was consumed with the desire to understand just how a man could abduct and strangle eight women—and how a family could live for two years, seemingly unaware, in a house with the victims’ rotting corpses. She also hoped to uncover what humanity, if any, a murderer could maintain in the wake of such monstrous evil.

Reaching out after Francois was arrested, Rowe and the serial killer began a dizzying four-year conversation about cruelty, compassion, and control; an unusual and provocative relationship that would eventually lead her to the abyss, forcing her to clearly see herself and her own past—and why she was drawn to danger.

From Publishers Weekly

Nov 21, 2016 – With reporter-like descriptions of small town life and strong storytelling skills, Rowe, a Seattles Times staff writer, unflinchingly depicts her decades-long obsession with Kendall Francois, a convicted serial killer, whom she first encountered in the 1990s while working as a reporter for a local paper in upstate New York. What begins as an investigation into how a person can commit cold-blooded murder became Rowe's albatross, ultimately leading her to examine her own life. Although she admits her personal stakes from the outset, the focus on her own story in the context of Francois's situation leads her to draw to comparisons that don't always measure up: for example, she attempts to relate her childhood experiences growing up in an white, upper-middle-class family in New York City to Francois's experience as the child of an extreme hoarder, in one of the few black families in a predominantly white part of Dutchess County. Though she skewers Kendall for trivialities such as liking "white pop" and speaking with an affected tone, she rarely turns that harsh lens on herself. It is only toward the end of the book, when Rowe admits her bias, that her story begins to strike a chord.

Customer Reviews

A Mixed Review

The "Spider and the Fly" is marketed as a true crime genre. I think Claudia Rowe is an excellent writer and I mostly enjoyed reading this story. But, and there always seems to be a but, I was left somewhat disappointed. I had read other reviews and many of them spoke about the fact that this was more about the author’s life than Kendall --- the murderer. Everytime the author turned her attention to the crime and the victims, I thought OK now we're going to find out what really happened. But Ms. Rowe seemed to lose focus and it became more about her and her life’s story.I would have preferred more about the crime, the victims, and the murderer than a book that weaved the author’s life and relationship with the murderer into the story of the crime.

The Spider and the Fly
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  • $10.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: True Crime
  • Published: Jan 24, 2017
  • Publisher: Dey Street Books
  • Print Length: 288 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.5 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings