The Spider and the Fly 

Reviewed By  Nan van Dissel       April 8, 2017


Author  Claudia Rowe

Distributor:       Booktopia/Amazon 
ISBN:                 9781760296285
Publisher:         Allen and Unwin
Release Date:   March 2017  

Website:    http:/ 

Why would an author want to initiate a four year correspondence with a serial killer behind bars, who hid the eight bodies of his victims in the loft of his house in which he and his family continued to live? In September 1998, young reporter Claudia Rowe, while working for the ‘New York Times’ in Poughkeepsie, New York became obsessed with the story of Kendall Francois, a seemingly ordinary community college student who abducted and strangled eight women. What was the killer’s motive in taking these lives!

‘The Spider and the Fly’ chronicles her correspondence with the serial killer, Kendall Francois and in the process Claudia Rowe takes the reader along on her journey of self-discovery. The correspondence between the two is also a tedious power struggle as to who has control of the resultant ‘relationship’; the book explores this provocative and dangerous relationship. Meanwhile, those near and dear to the author found her involvement with the serial killer through the letters which later lead to phone calls and eventually to prison visits, difficult to understand and even bizarre. 

In order to find an answer to the ‘why’ the author interviewed several people; a few teachers and some acquaintances but none had any useful perspective on the question. She was no closer to establishing whether Kendall is just a monster or worthy of some empathy.

In ‘The Spider and the Fly’ Claudia Rowe generally combines the true crime and memoir genres successfully. The author also provides the reader with some insight into the cultural and political history of upstate New York. However, topics tend to be a little random, which makes it difficult for the reader to make the connection between one event to the next.

If you enjoy discovering what the killers did, what drove them to do it, and some gruesome details of the crime they perpetrated in some chronological order, this probably isn’t the book for you. However, if you are interested in exploring this relationship between a journalist and a killer, you will find it a worthwhile read.