Cover image for The spider and the fly : a reporter, a serial killer, and the meaning of murder / Claudia Rowe.
The spider and the fly : a reporter, a serial killer, and the meaning of murder / Claudia Rowe.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Dey Street, an imprint of William Morrow, 2017.

Physical Description:
276 pages ; 24 cm


Library Branch
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
1 Bob Harkins Branch 364.1523092 FRA ROW Book Adult General Collection

On Order



"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.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

There are a multitude of ways to have an unhappy childhood. Journalist Rowe (staff writer, Seattle Times) explores two of them in this book: her own, and that of serial killer Kendall Francois. Uncertain about her career and future and caught in a crumbling and emotionally abusive relationship, Rowe became fascinated with a series of local murders in Poughkeepsie, NY. Her notions of being the one to understand the killer were quickly dispelled-she is neither spider nor fly. Unlike both Francois and his victims, the author's unhappiness as a child and young adult was buffered by affluence. While Rowe works to acknowledge that privilege, readers may find the stark contrast between her childhood and Francois's merits more attention. A shared interest in the worst of humanity is not enough to forge a bond, and Francois generally keeps Rowe at arm's length, while his impact on her life is much greater. VERDICT Readers who wonder what draws writers to grisly crimes will find insight here. The interwoven stories of author and subject will appeal to both true crime and memoir readers.-Kate Sheehan, C.H. Booth Lib., Newtown, CT © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

1 The Weight of Paperp. 1
2 99 Fulton Avenuep. 7
3 When Night Fallsp. 31
4 Tricks of the Tradep. 41
5 The Final Insultp. 59
6 Strange Townp. 71
7 As If We Were Friendsp. 95
8 Close to Homep. 115
9 Evidence of Things Not Seenp. 137
10 Man and Monsterp. 153
11 Solitairep. 167
12 U-Turnsp. 191
13 Ghost Storyp. 203
14 A Day in the Lifep. 219
15 One of Our Ownp. 235
16 The Face in the Mirrorp. 247
17 Dischargedp. 259
Epiloguep. 271
Acknowledgmentsp. 275
Author's Notep. 277

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