Friday Book Whimsy: The Spider and the Fly

Before I review this book, I have to tell you a deep, dark secret. I sort of, kind of, like to read about real-life murder and real-life murderers. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t intend to embark upon a killing spree ala Natural Born Killer, a movie I’ve never even seen. And what’s more, though I may be unique in that I admit it, many people are interested in murder. (I wish I could say it like the British do: muuuurdah.)

Anyway, I know I’m not the only one because podcasts about murders and murderers are wildly popular these days. My Favorite Murder is one of the more popular podcasts out there nowadays. (I don’t recommend it for everyone. Language, people.)

Anyway, The Spider and the Fly, by journalist Claudia Rowe, showed up on Book Bub, recommended for those who like nonfiction books that read like novels. As I am not a huge fan of nonfiction, this caught my eye, and I looked at the list of books. This one appealed to me because in the publisher’s description, it highlights this letter from real-life serial murderer Kendall Francois to the author:

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?

Oh my heavens. Doesn’t that sound like Hannibal Lector of Silence of the Lambs fame? I was hooked, and got my hands on the book as soon as possible.

Kendall Francois was convicted of killing eight women in Poughkeepsie, New York, between 1996 and 1998. What’s more, he kept these eight women in the attic of the home he shared with his mother, father, and a sister, who took no offense at the putrid smell coming from the attic and the appearance of maggots on their ceiling. Seems odd, doesn’t it?

Francois eventually confessed to the inept police (who had also visited the home, and it hadn’t raised any concerns), pleaded guilty, and was sent to live out most of the rest of his life at Attica prison. He eventually died of cancer at another prison in his 40s.

It was shortly after his confession that Ms. Rowe became interested in the murder and Francois himself. What, she wondered, could make a person become a serial murderer.

The book, however, is as much about the author and her messed-up life as it is about Kendall Francois. So if you embark on this reading journey thinking you will gain an understanding of why a person murders, you will be disappointed. Rowe becomes obsessed with the murderer because she thinks it might give her some insight into her own weird life.

By the way, despite the fact that Francois was a real-life murderer, he wasn’t as scary as Hannibal Lector because who could be?

This book is certainly not for everyone. The details are disturbing, and the fact that it is real stuff makes you want to not go out at night. Still, I admit that I enjoyed reading this book, though I might stick to murder mysteries from here on.

Here is a link to the book.


Friday Book Whimsy: Career of Evil

searchI wonder why authors choose to write under pseudonyms. Perhaps it’s to avoid having the reader approach a novel with preexisting expectations. I don’t know. J. K. Rowling – the author of the Harry Potter series – didn’t call me and ask me what I thought before she began writing a new series under the name Robert Galbraith. The result is that every time I talk about one of the books in the Cormoran Strike series, I feel compelled to remind you of the real name of the author. So consider yourself reminded.

And I hope I have to do it 10 or 11 more times, because the Cormoran Strike series is so well worth reading. Galbraith (wink, wink) is an amazing writer, it’s true. But I mostly enjoy this series because I find the characters so, well, interesting and realistic.

Strike, the protagonist, is not your typical private detective. The author’s descriptions call to mind a most unattractive and unappealing man, overly large, unattractively dark and hairy and infinitely grouchy. He’s grouchy because the prosthesis that replaces one of his legs is always extremely uncomfortable. My heart goes out to him in every book.

Career of Evil, the third in the Cormoran Strike series, begins with Strike’s likeable secretary/assistant Robin receiving an unexpected package which turns out to be a woman’s severed leg. Strike immediately recognizes that the person who sent the horrible package is trying to send the message to him that those closest to him are not safe. He immediately isolates four people in his life who he believes evil enough and with enough hatred of him to do such a thing.

His hunt for the responsible party makes up the bulk of the story. The author takes a bit of an unusual turn this time by including chapters told from the point of view of the killer. I found that to be creepy but somewhat annoying. The killer sounded too much like Buffalo Bill (the real bad guy in Silence of the Lambs, something often forgotten because of the horror of Hannibal Lector’s presence). There was an awful lot of talk about cutting off limbs and pieces of his victims. Thankfully, Galbraith never has us experience an actual atrocity.

The best part of this book was that the reader got the opportunity to get to know Robin (Strike’s assistant) much better and to see her grow as a character. The worst part of this book, as with the other two books in my opinion, is that Galbraith uses way too many words. The books, I believe, are overly long. Even though his/her writing is extraordinary, I believe it takes too long to get to the parts that are really interesting.

Nevertheless, I am a devoted fan of Cormoran Strike, and will never, ever miss one of his adventures.

Here is a link to the book.