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Publisher's Summary

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 27-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 by 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.

Rowe reached out after Francois was arrested, and she 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.

©2017 Claudia Rowe (P)2017 HarperCollins Publishers

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Desperately Boring

I found myself thinking about anything else while listening to this book. The title is misleading. The author focuses on the back and forth between she and a murderer but it's all very uneventful. There are spattering of her personal life during this time but each time it is about to get interesting, she moves on to another topic. It took me months of trying before giving up with hours left to go.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Annie R
  • South Salem, NY USA
  • 06-18-17

Interesting except for the white guilt

Rowe is a very skilled writer and it's a compelling book. But I could have done without her annoying insertions of her liberal white guilt. It's an uninteresting and unproductive way to discuss the racialized aspects of this story. Also the narrator does a terrible I guess...attempt at a black accent? When she's reading as Kendall. It's pretty cringe worthy. Overall, a good true crime type memoir with some faults.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Very intriguing

this story definitely left me wanting more. The acts of the guilty are disgusting. however, the attempt to peer into his mind and learn his plight were captivating. the reader and author did a great job. I couldn't give the story a 5 bcuz of the unanswered questions. 😔 But well worth the purchase

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Dallas
  • Scottsdale, Az, United States
  • 04-07-18

Good read, actual words overwrought

Author is a great story teller. Good introspective deep dive but every sentence has one or two too many descriptive words for my particular taste. Your mileage may vary.

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Such an amazing story!!

Oh my gosh I can’t elaborate enough just how great of a book this is. It may have made me curious to post to some convicts though 👀

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • christina
  • Camano Island, WA, United States
  • 08-25-17

Not impressed

Boring, disjointed, left me wondering 'what's the point of all of this?'
I'm sure she's a great journalist and she should stick to that.

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A Meditation on Humanity

This book is not for the faint of heart, but I don't suppose that's a surprise given its subject matter. Rowe's correspondence with Francois is interwoven with stomach-turning descriptions of his crimes and painfully pathetic sketches of the women he murdered. Even more uncomfortable (if that's possible) are the moments Rowe spends teasing apart her own past and present, examining the things that simultaneously propel and tether her. Her blunt fascination with her penpal's crimes (and other disturbing stories she covers as a journalist) is never pretty, and she doesn't want it to be. She doesn't defend or explain it. She merely describes it, and in time, finds a way to be merciful with Francois, her family, her former lovers, and herself.

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Wow

It was very interesting to hear the other side to the story about the murders.

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I had to stop listening...

What would have made The Spider and the Fly better?

The story was slow, bumpy and not easy to listen to. The flow of the story could have been much improved. I could not even get through to the interesting parts of the story, since the first third was so dense.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

I was eager to hear the meaty story, as was previewed on the Sword and Scale podcast. I have since stopped listening to the podcast (for other reasons) and was hoping this book was going to live up to expectations. Not sure if it would have, since I didn't read that far.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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i found this book hard to make it thru.

this book was slow and painful to listen to. The narration was slow. overall not great.