What happens when a reporter has the willpower and tenacity to try to overcome a serial killer’s refusal to communicate?
Seattle Times staff writer Rowe chronicles her dogged search to learn about convicted serial killer Kendall Francois, who killed eight female prostitutes in Poughkeepsie, New York, and stashed their bodies in the home he shared with his parents and sister. Francois, it seems, communicated with Rowe, via letters and a few face-to-face meetings, simply in an attempt to draw her into a relationship of some sort. For a while, it worked. Rowe sought a greater understanding of what separates a killer from the rest of us and, specifically, from herself. Francois’ refusal to discuss the murders he committed means the book is light on the meat of the crimes it covers, but it becomes obvious as the story progresses that at some point Rowe became as interested in investigating her own passage into adulthood as her subject’s interior life. Her childhood and difficult relationship with her mother and boyfriend become increasingly important narrative fodder, while her communications with Francois fade into the background. It is unclear whether Rowe sees herself as the spider or the fly in this strange, tense relationship, but the hunt was ineffectual in either case. The author never got her exclusive story, and Francois never achieved the deep, meaningful relationship he tried to force. Rowe’s engaging prose means the pages practically turn themselves, regardless of the disappointing end to the exchange. However, some readers may be frustrated with how to view the book: as a twisted coming-of-age memoir or the chronicle of a determined hunt for a killer’s motive.
Uneven but capably written. Rowe leaves readers wishing for a more satisfying solution to one puzzle while feeling relief in the resolution of the other.