The Spider and the Fly: A Reporter, a Serial Killer, and the Meaning of Murder

The Spider and the Fly: A Reporter, a Serial Killer, and the Meaning of Murder

A true story of a female journalist, 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...

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Title:The Spider and the Fly: A Reporter, a Serial Killer, and the Meaning of Murder
Author:Claudia Rowe
Rating:
ISBN:0062416146
Edition Language:English
Format Type:ebook
Number of Pages:288 pages

The Spider and the Fly: A Reporter, a Serial Killer, and the Meaning of Murder Reviews

  • Marika
    Sep 02, 2016

    True crime at its best. What happens when the author of a book on a serial killer becomes obsessed with the killer? The question becomes how does the author write objectively about the killer/monster, and that is just what Claudia Rowe has done. True crime is a crazy popular genre, and those who miss author Ann Rule will welcome Claudia Rowe.

    Note: I received a free review copy of this book and was not compensated for it.

  • Jessica Woodbury
    Sep 10, 2016

    I have so much to say and it's hard to know where to start, so let's start with what you know about this book before you read it: the title and summary. This is not a book of suspense, as nothing actually happens. There is no spider and no fly. This book will frustrate readers of true crime and bore readers of memoir. I'm not saying the two can't go together, but in this book the combination goes very wrong. The pitch of this book may sound great, but I highly doubt most readers will find it sat

    I have so much to say and it's hard to know where to start, so let's start with what you know about this book before you read it: the title and summary. This is not a book of suspense, as nothing actually happens. There is no spider and no fly. This book will frustrate readers of true crime and bore readers of memoir. I'm not saying the two can't go together, but in this book the combination goes very wrong. The pitch of this book may sound great, but I highly doubt most readers will find it satisfying.

    Here is what this book is about: Claudia and Kendall. Claudia, the author, is someone we don't actually know all that much about even after reading this book. It's clear she hates her life and it often seems she hates herself. But beyond her obsession with Kendall, she never comes into focus. One minute she identifies with a killer, the next she identifies with his victims, one page has her scared, the next page has her aloof. There are vague stories of her difficult life growing up amid privilege in Manhattan, but not much to illustrate any real difficulty. Ultimately there is no story in her story.

    As for Kendall, he's an odd figure to pick for the story of a serial killer. He is not a mastermind. He is not a plotter or a planner. While the author and the police all seem to categorize him under a psychopathic profile, it's pretty clear that this is a man who was angry and insecure and who chose to let his rage and aggression out by victimizing prostitutes, who he sees as less than human. There isn't really any more to it than that, but Rowe continues to search for some explanation, some sign, when there is no grand plan, no special clue. She seems astounded that a man who kills women can also smile and be polite and enjoy science-fiction, as if killers are only defined by their killing. (The author and others theorize in the book that Kendall killed other women and hid their bodies, though the fact that he left their bodies in his own home with as little effort and care as possible makes this incredibly unlikely. They are so caught up in the idea of a "serial killer" they don't seem to see Kendall for what he is.)

    This book has no suspense because nothing actually happens. Claudia and Kendall correspond, though we see very little of their actual letters. Sometimes there are long stretches where Rowe lays out the facts of the case or interviews people who knew Kendall. None of the people who knew Kendall are close friends or people with a useful perspective, a few teachers, a few acquaintances, no real insight. There doesn't appear to be much method to the structure, which jumps around and doesn't let you get very comfortable. Rowe cannot decide whether Kendall is a person worthy of empathy or a monster, and that is pretty much the entire book, watching her go back and forth, waiting for her to make the fairly straightforward realization that he is both a person and a killer. (It's unclear whether she actually does.)

    The decision to write this as both memoir and true crime is a bad one. There is not enough memoir to make much sense of Claudia and her life, and not enough narrative around her to understand her obsession with Kendall. Then as soon as the book makes a move towards true crime, Claudia's opinions keep coming in to throw it off. Rowe regularly makes assumptions about what Kendall thinks, though it's clear she has no real understanding of him. Her reporting on the true crime has too much of herself and doesn't end up being chilling or suspenseful. Her efforts to compare herself to Kendall and his victims strain credulity (having sex with people you don't particularly care for isn't the same as prostitution and poverty, for one).

    The prose is oddly flat. Rowe seems to have very little respect or empathy for anyone she writes about, unable to fully embrace memoir, but not giving the kind of reporting worthy of journalism. In an effort to embrace both worlds she has failed to get either of them right.

  • Zuky
    Jan 20, 2017

    Read my review here:

    As you may have noticed from the other reviews, this book is

    a retelling of a serial killer's crimes, how he did them, how he got away for so long, and eventually, how he got caught. This is much more about a (platonic) relationship between journalist and killer.

    Rowe is a journalist who becomes

    with Kendall, a convicted convicted serial killer of eight women, and at times, reading about this deep fascination gets a little

    Read my review here:

    As you may have noticed from the other reviews, this book is

    a retelling of a serial killer's crimes, how he did them, how he got away for so long, and eventually, how he got caught. This is much more about a (platonic) relationship between journalist and killer.

    Rowe is a journalist who becomes

    with Kendall, a convicted convicted serial killer of eight women, and at times, reading about this deep fascination gets a little uncomfortable. Openly admitting that she feels a sense of importance and flattery at having so much on Kendall’s attention seems pretty disgusting, but she then admits that she now knows these feelings were inappropriate and has come to realise that her obsession got the better of her.

    I have to agree with other reviews, that this book is a little all over the place. Rowe’s writing is absolutely gorgeously put all the way through, it’s really poetic, it’s just that the structure is a bit off. Topics skip all over the place and it can sometimes be hard to grasp how one thing connects to the next.

    In the end, I actually really enjoyed this novel even though it wasn’t a classic true crime kinda novel. It was interesting seeing the correspondence between the two of them and getting the feel for how someone like Kendall works in a different way to us. I’m not really interested to read all about the Attica riots, so that will be a new addition to my bookshelf soon, I’m sure!

    If you like going through a true crime novel finding out what the killer did in chronological order, what drove them to do it and some of the more gruesome details of their crimes, then this probably isn’t the novel for you, but if you like something a little more personal and moving I would recommend giving this one a try.

    Thanks to the publisher for sending me a free copy in exchange for a review!

  • Lashaan Balasingam (Bookidote)
    Jan 22, 2017

    .

    The Spider and the Fly is a blend of memoir and true crime. You can’t help but wonder how it could be possible. Maybe the writer is the criminal? That would definitely would be interesting, but this book has something just as bewitching. This piece of literature is journalist Claudia Rowe’s first book in which she chronicles her connection with serial killer Kendall Francois. Working for the New York Times in Poughkeepsie, New York, Claudia Rowe

    .

    The Spider and the Fly is a blend of memoir and true crime. You can’t help but wonder how it could be possible. Maybe the writer is the criminal? That would definitely would be interesting, but this book has something just as bewitching. This piece of literature is journalist Claudia Rowe’s first book in which she chronicles her connection with serial killer Kendall Francois. Working for the New York Times in Poughkeepsie, New York, Claudia Rowe’s fascination for the mystery behind the discovery of a serial killer who is arrested for the murder of eight prostitutes stashed in the attic and the basement of his home has brought her to embark on an ambitious and dangerous adventure. In fact, her curiosity brings her to maintain a four year mail correspondence with a serial killer behind bars. While her decision to decipher a serial killer’s motive to take lives also brings ruin to her own life, The Spider and the Fly discloses a journalist’s road to self-discovery and her attempt to understanding her deepest pains and passions.

    Media loves to point their spotlights on criminals and learn anything and everything about them. Being able to extract a bit of information that had never surfaced before is a moment of glory for plenty of journalists. After all, we’re all human. We seek for answers where every thing is blurry and incomprehensible. Finding answers to our questions is what drives a lot of our actions. Kendall Francois’ life-course is one of those mysteries that drove Claudia Rowe to contact him. This killer had a past that made him stand out from everyone else. Not because he had criminal behaviors since his young age or because his childhood was filled with hate and violence. Simply because his size and ethnicity made him stand out from every other person in his neighborhood. It’s his sudden drift to picking up prostitutes, to trying to make them clean and then to draining the life out of them by holding their necks with his giant hands that causes many to wonder on his motives. Desiring to find answers, Claudia Rowe commences a mail correspondence with this killer, trying to get him to talk to her as a person who’s more than just a journalist.

    While the book isn’t in the form of an epistolary, Claudia Rowe does however tease us with excerpts from their letters. Her writing does commend a round of applause as it does a magnificent job in installing an eerie and suffocating atmosphere. While often sharing her thoughts on the events that unfold during their communication, she brings to light a lot of her own past and the problems she has once had with the people in her own network. I had some trouble with the way the author transitioned from a moment from the past to one in the present, as it felt too sudden and sometimes simply killed the flow. While it took some getting used to, the story still managed to cover as much on the life of both key characters as possible. The most unsettling moments in this book where the constant self-analysis by Claudia Rowe that lead her to sometimes see herself as one of the victims of Kendall Francois or to even relate similarities between her past and the serial killer’s. Her hunt for answers and her attempt to befriend a killer (or at least pretend for the sake of establishing a connection with him that will open him up, figuratively) are the driving forces of the whole journey told by the author. Even if Kendall Francois requires Claudia Rowe to unveil her life to him as genuinely as possible if she wants him to do so himself, the struggle of the journalist to do something that she knows seems repulsive to the eyes of others doesn’t stop her from playing the game and potentially find herself in a deadly trap.

    Readers who expect The Spider and the Fly to satisfy their cravings for a pure true crime will surely not find everything they desire in this. This book explores a journalists attempt to understand her own darkness through her exploration of a serial killer’s. While the book leaves you with more questions on both Claudia Rowe and Kendall Francois, it also shows you that answers are not to be found whenever we fancy them. Diving into this game with a serial killer has costed her her own personal life and brought her to lose a lot in the process. Although the damage to her own life were visible, she persevered and continued to knock at the doors of teachers, friends, and the family of the victims in search of the trigger that could explain everything. Claudia Rowe also conveys the story of Kendall Francois’ family since they also lived under the same roof that held all the rotting bodies for years. Wondering how the family never wondered to check on the nasty smell of corpses, countless questions on Kendall Francois’ life arises from the dark. Buried in questions that are often gone unanswered by the killer himself or simply ignored, one can’t help but search in the past for something that could explain the trajectory of a killer who was often referred to as a giant and kind bear.

    Kendall Francois is not the typical serial killer that you find in your fair share of fiction. His actions are incomprehensible and his ways are not meticulous or planned. It doesn’t however take away anything despicable from his acts. The book doesn’t sly away from making his every presence a menace and a giant threat to Claudia Rowe’s own life. With a beautiful in-depth analysis of the journalists past and self, The Spider and the Fly is an exploration of a provocative and dangerous relationship between Claudia Rowe and Kendall Francois. While a tiresome game of power and control envelops their every contact, their relationship also leads the protagonist to understanding what drives her to find fascination within anything close to danger since her childhood. This combination of memoir and true crime is a thrilling and excellent piece that portrays the ugly in all its raw form. The best part of this book is not about getting the answers to the questions we ask. It’s about the process of hunting for answers and all the enlightenment that you get from it.

    Thank you to

    for sending me an Advance Copy for review!

    Yours truly,

    Lashaan | Blogger and Book Reviewer

    Official blog:

  • Dawn
    Jan 08, 2017

    Part memoir, part psychological thriller, Claudia Rowe's brilliant THE SPIDER AND THE FLY gripped me from the first page, and sent me spiralling into a frenzied read that left me turning pages until I literally couldn't keep my eyes open. In my sleep, the story continued to play out in my dreams, and when I woke, I reached for this book before my coffee, desperate to finish. Claudia Rowe is an incredible writer, and her book left me slack-jawed and brimming with writer envy, but also with a deep

    Part memoir, part psychological thriller, Claudia Rowe's brilliant THE SPIDER AND THE FLY gripped me from the first page, and sent me spiralling into a frenzied read that left me turning pages until I literally couldn't keep my eyes open. In my sleep, the story continued to play out in my dreams, and when I woke, I reached for this book before my coffee, desperate to finish. Claudia Rowe is an incredible writer, and her book left me slack-jawed and brimming with writer envy, but also with a deeper understanding of my journalistic (and somewhat obsessive) self. Few memoirs have left such a startling impact on me.

  • Caroline
    Feb 02, 2017

    Beautifully written memoir of Rowe's correspondence with the serial killer Kendall Francois. It's a devastating story, but the delicate interweaving of psychological thriller and candid memoir is hard to resist.

  • Amanda
    Jan 18, 2017

    This is phenomenal. Part "In Cold Blood", part "Silence of the Lambs", and part coming-of-age memoir. Claudia Rowe details the correspondence she had with serial killer Kendall Francois, a relationship she started in the hopes of learning his motivations for murdering 8 women. But, along the way, she explores her own motivations for initiating this relationship, and continuing it over the course of years. So, so good.

  •  wade
    Feb 06, 2017

    This is a non fiction story about the relationship between the author and a mass murderer of eight women in upstate New York. She is a reporter for the New York Times. There is a long building process to gain Francois Kendall's (the killer) confidence. Over the course of the book we get insight into the minds of both the author (who is troubled) and the killer. Ms. Rowe's single mindedness in pursuing this story is to the point of losing her boyfriend as he feels he can't compete with Rowe's re

    This is a non fiction story about the relationship between the author and a mass murderer of eight women in upstate New York. She is a reporter for the New York Times. There is a long building process to gain Francois Kendall's (the killer) confidence. Over the course of the book we get insight into the minds of both the author (who is troubled) and the killer. Ms. Rowe's single mindedness in pursuing this story is to the point of losing her boyfriend as he feels he can't compete with Rowe's relationship Kendall. A very interesting look into the psyche of a monster.

  • Bry
    Feb 01, 2017

    The marketing for this book is deeply flawed. This is not true crime. This is a memoir. An enjoyable but deeply flawed book due to a disjointed agenda as to the real purpose of the story.

  • Megan
    Feb 22, 2017

    Probably. Hey, it's not my fault I haven't heard of Kendall Francois from the little town of Poughkeepsie, New York! I guarantee most people haven't...maybe. I honestly thought it was ju

    Probably. Hey, it's not my fault I haven't heard of Kendall Francois from the little town of Poughkeepsie, New York! I guarantee most people haven't...maybe. I honestly thought it was just very realistic fiction until I got to the author's note at the end. I don't know if that's a good thing or not.

    If you're like me and don't know, Kendall Francois is a serial killer. He targets prostitutes and kills them after having sex with them. By the time he is caught, he has eight women stacked in his attic, unbeknownst to his parents who he still lives with. Claudia Rowe, a journalist who resides in Poughkeepsie, wonders what could possess a man to want to kill eight innocent women, and then turn himself in. She begins to correspond with him through letters, phone calls, and even meets in in jail.

    This book isn't the easiest to get into. When I started, I felt very disconnected from the characters and plot. I trudged through thirty pages, hoping that it would get better. It eventually began to interest me more, but

    , which might have been because the story jumped a lot. It would go from past to present without really addressing when and where the portion was occurring.

    However, once you get to the interesting bulk of the story (the interviews between Claudia and Kendall) the book is easy to fly through. I found myself admiring how the book

    There were a few really well executed passages and points that made me think, which is one of the best things a book can do. Learning about Kendall's past was definitely a strong part of Rose's examination. I wish the same would have been done with the family, because I honestly have no idea why his mother and father were always so sketchy.

    The main problem I have is this:

    It's still not completely known why Kendall did what he did. The book is mainly this very thin line that Claudia walks while interviewing him and their strange infatuation with one another. I feel like if someone was a Kendall Francois enthusiast and studied him, this book wouldn't really add anything to their knowledge. I understand that's not entirely Claudia's fault. Kendall wouldn't talk about a lot of things. However, I still feel in the dark about his family and his motives.

    I did enjoy learning about the case of Kendall Francois, especially told from the POV of someone who had sat (literally) knee to knee with him at Attica Jail. There were some things I couldn't look past though, so I'm giving it a solid three stars because it does have potential. I wouldn't recommend someone against reading this. It will definitely inform you about a town filled with tragedy, ponder the motives of a serial killer (and make you fear for Claudia's life).