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The spider and the fly : a reporter, a serial killer, and the meaning of murder
2017
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Summary

Winner of the Washington State Book Award for Memoir

"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 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 twenty-seven-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 with 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.

Reaching out after Francois was arrested, Rowe 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.

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Booklist Review
In 1998, journalist Rowe was working in Poughkeepsie, New York, where she reported on the odd but generally mild crime scene. Mild, that is, until the day that local resident Kendall Francois confessed to murdering eight women, who were then currently decomposing in his family's attic. A shy, overly polite young man, Kendall fascinated Rowe, and she began a four-year correspondence with him. Ostensibly working as a reporter, she became fixated by their game of giving and receiving personal information. Her obsession was fueled by her own dark past, her resemblance to his victims, and her feelings of connection with Kendall. This is true-crime writing where the story bleeds from journalism into memoir, as the writer becomes a main character. Aiming for the heights of Truman Capote's classic In Cold Blood (1966) or Sebastian Junger's A Death in Belmont (2006), Rowe's book never quite makes it there. Her identification with both Kendall and the victims feels forced. Her obsession, however, does not. Readers seeking a literary look at the psychology of a criminal will find much to hold them rapt.--Sexton, Kathy Copyright 2017 Booklist
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Table of Contents
1The Weight of Paperp. 1
299 Fulton Avenuep. 7
3When Night Fallsp. 31
4Tricks of the Tradep. 41
5The Final Insultp. 59
6Strange Townp. 71
7As If We Were Friendsp. 95
8Close to Homep. 115
9Evidence of Things Not Seenp. 137
10Man and Monsterp. 153
11Solitairep. 167
12U-Turnsp. 191
13Ghost Storyp. 203
14A Day in the Lifep. 219
15One of Our Ownp. 235
16The Face in the Mirrorp. 247
17Dischargedp. 259
Epiloguep. 271
Acknowledgmentsp. 275
Author's Notep. 277
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