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

3.21  ·  Rating details ·  2,360 ratings  ·  363 reviews

“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

Kindle Edition, 288 pages
Published January 24th 2017 by Dey Street Books
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Average rating 3.21  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,360 ratings  ·  363 reviews

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Jessica Woodbury
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 ...more
Mar 05, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This was a bait and switch. It was not about the killer, it was about the author.
Nov 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This memoir was not written in the "true crime" ilk. It was more about the writers journey to finding where she fit in this world.

Rowe wrote about her daemons, realizing that she had them, and had to change her life. And it makes you realize we all have things about us that need changing for the better.

I would suggest this book to those who are interested in Psychology. Especially if you thing is studying the criminal mind and The Stockholm Syndrome. Abusers and criminals know how to turn their
Debra Komar
Apr 12, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It's easy to see how the author (and her agent) pitched this book: a real-life version of the "Silence of the Lambs" in which a novice reporter takes on a serial killer, trading quid pro quo information. The kicker was that it would be written like "In Cold Blood," Capote's masterpiece of creative non-fiction.

The result is unreadable. The book opens with an embarrassing ode to, of all things, the post office. The author enters a small town post office to pick up her mail. That would be the shor
aPriL does feral sometimes
Author Claudia Rowe, a newspaper reporter, was obsessed with evil and serial killers since she was a child. She begins a correspondence with a convicted serial killer, Kendall Francois, supposedly for a newspaper story or a true-crime book. She hopes to learn why he did it, analyze where evil comes from, and at the same time, figure out why she is obsessed with evil and serial killers for her own personal edification. (view spoiler) ...more
Elizabeth George
This is an extraordinary book in pretty much every way. The writing is superb, the revelations are gut wrenching, and the author's cut-to-the-soul honesty is heroic. It's not so much about the serial killer whom the author gets to know as it is about the author's journey to understand how she became who she is today. It's terrific and I can't say enough good things about it. ...more
Nov 08, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was looking forward to reading a true crime, non-fiction title but was disappointed. I found the writing style to be rambling, and repetitive, and flipping back and forth between situations. This was more an unhealthy obsession about a serial killer, not a memoir, with details of the crimes committed thrown in.
Lashaan Balasingam (Bookidote)
You can find my review on my blog by clicking here.

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
Zuky the BookBum
Jan 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, 4-stars, non-fiction
Read my review here:

As you may have noticed from the other reviews, this book is not 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 obsessed with Kendall, a convicted convicted serial killer of eight women, and at times, reading about this deep fascination gets a little
Bert Z
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Kendall Francois was an American serial killer who raped and strangled 8 women; he stored them in stacks in his parents attic for over 2 years before being arrested for the crimes… His crimes are extremely heinous and as morbid as this sounds, they make for a great true crime book.

Sadly this is not the story that The Spider & the Fly tells, yes you get to hear tidbits of what happened with the murders, his arrest and prison sentence but essentially this book is a story about a reporter obsessed
Kris - My Novelesque Life
2017; Dey Street Books/HarperCollins
(Review Not on Blog)

I really really wanted to like this one! The cover, the synopsis, and the title all led me to think this was going to be a good one. There was no spider and fly, no suspense/tension, no intrigue and no meaning of murder...only part that was true was the serial killer. This book seemed to be all over the place. The first bit sets you up thinking it's going to be a true crime suspense but then it just turns flat. The communic
Melinda Elizabeth
If you're going to spend a fair chunk of your time corresponding with a serial killer, you'd expect a great tale to be the end result of it.

The Spider and The Fly wants you to compare the tale of Claudia and Kendall to Lector and Clarice - a symbiotic relationship where the serial killer allows the naïve young woman to uncover the truth about themselves. However Claudia is no Clarice, and Kendall is a killer who was convenient to Claudia's tale and got stuck on the ride with her.

There is littl
"They know how they're living is crazy. But they all had their secrets. There was something really bad going on in that family, and everyone was in on it. There's more bodies buries, so to speak, than just the bodies."

Is it bad that I didn't realize this was nonfiction until I finished the whole freaking book? 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
Melissa Chung
I love true crime and had just finished “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” by Michelle McNamara, before starting this one. It’s hard not to compare books and authors, but it happens. I loved that both of these books were written by females. Serial Killers, is a scary subject, especially when most serial killers’ victim’s are women. There is a strength gleaned from facing a fear like that. I respect them for their defiance of gender norms and jumping into this “mans world” of death and decay. However, be ...more
Oct 05, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Erika Nerdypants
If you are looking for a page turner, then this is definitely it. Rowe crosses a lot of boundaries here, and not just by combining true crime with memoir. Both are told compellingly. It’s the personal boundaries she is willing to cross that bother me quite a bit. She sort of knows she is using Kendall Francois for personal gain, and tries to justify this in various ways. She spares no one, not her mother, nor her ex-boyfriend, and you can feel the fury blasting off the page when she talks about ...more
juicy brained intellectual
man this is everything i hate about true crime where its whole premise is designed to ruminate over the complexities of a misogynistic murderer while also painting all of his victims as stupid wh*res who got what they deserved.... fuck this lmfao. every time shes SHOCKED that one of his victims isnt poor white trash but from a life of privilege much like her own is hilarious. also this isnt her fault but i love how the poughkeepsie police force had a known serial sex offender who repeatedly assa ...more
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.
Jamie Jones Hullinger
I have mixed feelings about this book. While I was completely annoyed by the author's angle and obnoxious narcissism I was still committed to reaching the end. I was glad I did because the author finally came to her senses and it ended up being a really odd story of self discovery. I can understand why some would hate this book. ...more
Feb 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Stephanie Griffin
The subtitle is misleading. There is no answer to the meaning of murder. Most of the book centers on the author and I couldn't care less about her, her marriage, or her jobs. ...more
Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read true crime books that stray into the world of the author themselves, often detracting from the primary course of the narrative to resemble self centered memoirs rather than the content promised in the blurb. The Spider and the Fly bucks this trend; it's a book about a serial killer AND a journalist whose steady infatuation is as addictive to read as the heinous plight undertaken Kendall Francois.

A killing spree spanning some four years and change in which 8 Poughkeepsie prostitutes we
Oct 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime, memoir
A good, if sometimes unsatisfying read about the reporter who developed a pen-pal relationship with serial killer Kendall Francois. This book told me much more than Fred Rosen's book about the same guy, but I gritted my teeth more than once because the author never simply told us what she saw in the police reports, the crime-scene photos, or even Kendall's letters to her. She made the book rather too much about her, and even said as much by the end -- she couldn't make sense of all the informati ...more
Jan 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
jeni brasfield
Jan 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I was sent an Advance Reader’s Edition of Claudia Rowe’s THE SPIDER AND THE FLY from HarperCollins. Thank you!
Every time the news reports a story of a serial killer, there is a part of me (and perhaps you) that is intrigued on some level --What makes a human so inhuman?
For Rowe, she acted upon that intrigue, and as a journalist, she craved assembling psychological insight that might reveal the answer. As Rowe delves deeper, a seemingly inevitable moral and emotional burden blurs her focus and
Oct 16, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Where to start with The Spider And The Fly. Starting the book I was super excited to be reading a true crime book. the spider and the fly is a mixture of true crime and a memoir. Claudia Rowe dives deep into kendall's past and his crimes and becomes obsessed as she starts to identify with him.
She becomes a little too obsessed when her personal life comes crumbling down around her, she looses her house, boyfriend, and jobs.
I would give Claudia Rowe another shot if I were to come across another of
Jan 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-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. ...more
Feb 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So disturbing I had to take breaks and made a point of not letting it be the last thing I read or looked at before bed. But also reminded me of a flower opening; a really unflinching book by a brave writer. Really respect how this author went for it.
Great book and well written. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes the true crime genre. Thank you to Dey Street/William Morrow for a free copy of this book.
Feb 01, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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Claudia Rowe is a journalist who currently works for The Seattle Times. In the past, she has worked for The New York Times, Mother Jones, Woman’s Day, The Huffington Post and The Stranger and other newspapers and magazines. She has been a member of the Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau.

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