The Spider and the Fly: A Writer, a Murderer and a Story of Obsession

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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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About the author

Claudia Rowe is an award-winning journalist who has been twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Currently a staff writer at the Seattle Times, she has published work in numerous newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, Mother Jones, Huffington Post, Women’s Day, Yes! and Seattle’s alternative weekly, The Stranger. She has been honored by the Society of Professional Journalists, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, and the Journalism Center on Children & Families, which awarded her a Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.

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Additional Information

Publisher
HarperCollins
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Published on
Jan 24, 2017
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9780062416148
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs
True Crime / Murder / Serial Killers
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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"This upsetting account of a Los Angeles serial killer, written with passion by Christine Pelisek, an investigative crime reporter who spent 10 years working the case, blurts out a hard truth that no one wants to acknowledge . . . [She] tries to restore dignity to some of the victims by drawing sympathetic and carefully detailed life histories for each and every one of them." —Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review

In 2006, Christine Pelisek broke the story of a terrifying serial killer who went unchecked in Los Angeles for decades. Two years later, in her cover article for L.A. Weekly, Pelisek dubbed him "The Grim Sleeper" for his long break between murders. The killer preyed on a community devastated by crime and drugs and left behind a trail of bodies—all women of color, all murdered in a similar fashion, and all discarded in the alleys of Los Angeles.

The case of the Grim Sleeper is unforgettably singular. But it also tells a wider story about homicide investigations in areas beset by poverty, gang violence, and despair; about how a serial killer could continue his grisly work for two decades in part due to society’s lack of concern for his chosen victims; and about the power and tenacity of those women’s families and the detectives who refused to let the case go cold.

No one knows this story better than Pelisek, the reporter who followed it for more than ten years. Based on extensive interviews, reportage, and information never released to the public, The Grim Sleeper captures the long, bumpy road to justice in one of the most startling true crime stories of our generation.
Inspired by author Tori Telfer's Jezebel column “Lady Killers,” this thrilling and entertaining compendium investigates female serial killers and their crimes through the ages.

When you think of serial killers throughout history, the names that come to mind are ones like Jack the Ripper, John Wayne Gacy, and Ted Bundy. But what about Tillie Klimek, Moulay Hassan, Kate Bender? The narrative we’re comfortable with is the one where women are the victims of violent crime, not the perpetrators. In fact, serial killers are thought to be so universally, overwhelmingly male that in 1998, FBI profiler Roy Hazelwood infamously declared in a homicide conference, “There are no female serial killers.”

Lady Killers, based on the popular online series that appeared on Jezebel and The Hairpin, disputes that claim and offers fourteen gruesome examples as evidence. Though largely forgotten by history, female serial killers such as Erzsébet Báthory, Nannie Doss, Mary Ann Cotton, and Darya Nikolayevna Saltykova rival their male counterparts in cunning, cruelty, and appetite for destruction.

Each chapter explores the crimes and history of a different subject, and then proceeds to unpack her legacy and her portrayal in the media, as well as the stereotypes and sexist clichés that inevitably surround her. The first book to examine female serial killers through a feminist lens with a witty and dryly humorous tone, Lady Killers dismisses easy explanations (she was hormonal, she did it for love, a man made her do it) and tired tropes (she was a femme fatale, a black widow, a witch), delving into the complex reality of female aggression and predation. Featuring 14 illustrations from Dame Darcy, Lady Killers is a bloodcurdling, insightful, and irresistible journey into the heart of darkness.

 

 

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