The Book Review: The Spider and the Fly – A Reporter, a Serial Killer, and the Meaning of Murder by Claudia Rowe.


Thanks to HarperCollinsCanada and the publisher for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review. I have read “Gone Girl” by the author which attracted me to Rowe’s latest book “The Spider and the Fly”. This does not affect my opinion of the content or the book in my review.

“I [Rowe] extended my arm, and Kendall grabbed it, spreading my fingers wide. He hooked his between them, slammed his other hand on top, and I was caught. […] Electricity crackled up my elbow. Kendall gazed into my eyes. He was beaming”.

With a long background in Police, Security and Law Enforcement, I enjoy reading true crime/memoir novels, especially those with insight on forensic psychology or forensic linguistics. I could relate to many situations Rowe mentioned regarding prison, psychology, murder and trials. I also find it more and more difficult to believe that anybody can truly understand what makes a serial killer tick and cross this somewhat fine line of committing murder. 

Since I finished this book last night, the story of the serial killer Kendall Francois is on my mind a lot and keeps me thinking and wonder. The author Claudia Rowe has a great way of keeping the reader suspicious enough to read on and on through a mix of awesome journalism and language throughout the entire book. 

What is the book about? [No spoilers]

The journalist Claudia Rowe corresponds initially through letters with the imprisoned serial killer Kendall Francois who brutally raped and killed eight sex workers. The author also gives a plethora of background information about the murder case as well as trial and psychological information about the killer. It becomes clear pretty quickly throughout the story that Rowe gets obsessed with the Kendall and is eager to find out why he committed the murders. She also wants answers about how Francois was able to kill eight women and kept them in the attic, in the garage or in a kiddy pool for weeks. Who is Kendall Francois? Is he human? Does he have feelings?

Francois has never been caught by police [it might have been because of incompetence and/or bad police work], however, he confessed to all eight murders and this is when and where Rowe’s story actually begins. She started a correspondence with Kendall. He demanded that she has to write about personal things about her life and background but would  in return only get limited access to him and his thoughts. Kendall: “How I ‘deal’ with the awful things I’ve done is personal”. 

“Ken, I do not just see you only as a killer. I never have. I see you as a person who has been in pain for a long time, and whose pain is a big part of what ultimately happened. It is difficult to understand how someone who writes and thinks the way you do […], could grow up to commit the crimes you’ve committed”. 

I wondered many times, how the author is able to write very emotionally at points, yet tried to be as objectively about Kendall and the case as possible. I knew that this book is true crime at its best since the author also does not only focus on the case or the murderer. The reader finds out about Rowe as a person, her private life, her personal struggles and traumas while living with her boyfriend  in the Poughkeepsie area in New York. She also seeks to understand why she is fascinated by Kendall. 

Overall, this is a very interesting, brilliant and thought-provoking read especially for anyone who enjoys genres like true crime, memoir, journalism as well as topics such as prison life,  police work and investigation. 

Interested? The Spider and the Fly will be published January 27, 2017 by Harper Collins. 

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