Kerri Maniscalco on Making Science, Not Serial Killers, the Real Star of Her YA Series

Kerri Maniscalco on Making Science, Not Serial Killers, the Real Star of Her YA Series

Capturing the Devil

This fall Kerri Maniscalco’s Stalking Jack the Ripper series comes to a thrilling and dramatic close in Capturing the Devil. This final installment takes Audrey Rose and Thomas to Chicago, where they’re tracking down a serial killer called White City Devil. Here, Maniscalco chats about her inspiration in crafting this YA series.

When I started drafting the Stalking Jack the Ripper series, I wanted to tell a story about the team behind the scenes. Murdering men have taken up far too much space in our media and I wanted a young woman to lead the charge this time as they hunted and tracked infamous killers. I also wanted to focus on the science and the victims more than the murderers.

I explored the stories of Jack the Ripper, Vlad the Impaler, the Bavarian Ripper, and H.H. Holmes in my series, but the real stars were the forensic-focused female sleuths who sought justice over fame. I was surprised and excited to learn that each of the forensic practices mentioned in the series were already in use during the Victorian Era. During my research I discovered that,while some may think my main character is ahead of her time, she wasn’t alone in her pursuit of scientific advances in her field: A British woman named Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman in America to receive a medical degree in 1849. She studied with 150 male classmates (who had to vote unanimously for her to be allowed to study with them) at Geneva Medical College. Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler published A Book of Medical Discourses in 1883. Mary Elizabeth Mahoney was the first certified black nurse in the U.S. Alice Ball created an injectable cure for leprosy.

The history of profiling and forensic science and the fight to capture these killers have never gotten the same attention that the killers themselves have received. It seems like every year there’s a new documentary, or a deeper look into the lives and childhoods of the killers, or a new taped confession to hype. We know the term “serial killer,” yet Robert Ressler, the FBI agent who coined it and did a groundbreaking study in the early 1970s about psychological profiling, is not as widely known. Why don’t we know the bigger story?

I’m intrigued by why and how a serial killer comes to be, but I’m utterly fascinated with the science that solves the crimes and I wish we learned about the groundbreaking women in STEM more—many of whom were women of color. Maybe it’s my morbid heart, but studying blood splatter or crafting a profile of who a murderer might be using psychology is like real life magic. 

If they say you can’t, don’t believe them. Cheers to STEM and STEAM and going after your dreams, no matter what they are.


Kerri Maniscalco grew up in a semi-haunted house outside NYC where her fascination with gothic settings began. In her spare time she reads everything she can get her hands on, cooks all kinds of food with her family and friends, and drinks entirely too much tea while discussing life’s finer points with her cats. She is the #1 NYT and USA Today bestselling author of the Stalking Jack the Ripper series and the forthcoming Kingdom of the Wicked. Keep up with her online @KerriManiscalco.


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