10:00 am EDT, September 10, 2019

‘Capturing the Devil’ book review: My love for thee is eternal

Capturing the Devil, the fourth and final book in Kerri Maniscalco’s thrilling Stalking Jack the Ripper series, is every bit as heart-pounding as you’d expect it to be.

Picking up a few weeks after where Escaping from Houdini left off, Capturing the Devil finds Audrey Rose and Thomas trying to settle into a sort of new normal. But, of course, things never work out as planned for the two and danger (as well as murder) is never too far behind them.

When a curious number of women start being murdered in eerily similar ways to Jack the Ripper’s victims back in London, Audrey Rose and Thomas must drop everything and make their way to Chicago, the so-called White City that’s less shiny than it appears on the surface. But as they begin to investigate the connections between recent murders, unexplainable disappearances, and the monster killing women in East London, the duo learn some unsettling truths about the case they thought they solved months ago and must face their most fearsome and dangerous foe yet: The Devil.

First off, I need to confess something: H.H. Holmes has been (and most likely will always be) a sort of personal obsession of mine. Born and raised in Chicago, there’s just something about this aspect of my favorite city’s dark past that I can never truly get over. I’m not a “fan” of H.H. Holmes, per say, because he was an absolute monster and did horrific things to unsuspecting young women (as well as men and children), but he has always fascinated me.

So believe me when I say that I could not have been more excited the moment that Kerri Maniscalco announced that the fourth and final book in the Stalking Jack the Ripper series would be titled Capturing the Devil. Before she even made it explicit that Audrey Rose and Thomas would be making their way to my city, I knew exactly which monster this novel would highlight.

Not only that, but I had a pretty good feeling about how as well. And, true to form, Kerri Maniscalco did not disappoint.

As the titular villain, H.H. Holmes poses a pretty solid threat. He doesn’t appear all that often on the page, but that’s perhaps what makes him such an effective monster. He may not be physically present, but his shadow looms large over the White City as well as our favorite characters. Holmes also poses quite a challenge for Audrey Rose and Thomas, as it’s difficult to find someone who doesn’t leave any bodies in his wake. As far as formidable foes in this series go, Holmes is right up there with Jack the Ripper.

However, I will say that while Holmes is pretty fearsome, his brand of terror makes Capturing the Devil far less creepy than the rest of the books in the series. While the monsters in the first three books operate in the shadows and dark corners, Holmes operates under the radar. So if you’re a fan of the way this series has mixed mystery with the macabre in the past to create an eerie atmosphere, you may be slightly disappointed here.

That being said, while it’s definitely not as creepy, Capturing the Devil is no less sinister or graphic. What the book lacks in dead bodies for our heroes to examine it makes up with scenes of Sweeney Todd-level horror, especially toward the end. The climax in this book is right out of a horror movie as it’s equal parts terrifying and gory. It’s also horror movie-like in that Audrey Rose *finally* gets her long-overdue “Final Girl” sequence.

And it’s awesome.

Capturing the Devil by Kerri Maniscalco

Honestly, every murder, mystery, and heart-pounding moment in the series has been leading up to Audrey Rose fulfilling her true potential. Every lesson she has ever learned throughout the series is reflected in the way she carries herself and acts at the end of this novel. Without spoiling anything, I can say that she’s put into a situation that feels almost unwinnable and yet it’s that situation that demonstrates to her just how capable she is. And it’s a beautiful (albeit slightly terrifying) thing to watch.

In realizing her full potential, Audrey Rose also takes responsibility for all of her actions and decisions, both the good and the bad, and then deals with whatever fallout follows. She accepts the consequences for her actions and, instead of dwelling, owns her mistakes and learns from them.

The Audrey Rose at the end of Capturing the Devil is a much different, more badass Audrey Rose than the one we all fell in love with in Stalking Jack the Ripper and watching her rise up in this novel is a true joy. She’s frills and thrills, darkness and light, raging and patient. All can be and are simultaneously true. There are few heroines as complex and layered as Audrey Rose and I, for one, am very sad to say goodbye to her.

But at least we don’t have to say goodbye to her without also seeing what happens in her “Will they? Won’t they?” dance with a certain Thomas Cresswell.

Capturing the Devil is very much a novel of two halves. While the second deals very directly with the Devil and the White City, the first focuses on something very different: Audrey Rose and Thomas’s relationship.

In fact, aside from mentions of murder and the macabre here and there, the first half feels very much like a modern Jane Austen novel. Societal expectations make up the majority of the issues that Audrey Rose and Thomas face, but, though they reflect Victorian society, the discussions around them feel very fresh and modern.

Cressworth fans will delight in knowing that Audrey Rose and Thomas’s romantic journey takes center stage in this book, no longer relegated to being treated as a sub-plot. While I was impatient for the couple to finally make it to Chicag and start tracking down America’s first serial killer (which they actually don’t do until around the midway point), I was more than a little addicted to the intrigue of the relationship plotline here.

These two have gone through a lot together, in both their personal and professional lives, but the obstacles and issues they face in this novel are very different from any they’ve encountered previously. And yet, it’s easy to see just how their past experiences have prepared them to face just about anything together.

Though it’s not at all smooth sailing for our favorite couple here, it’s impossible not to enjoy every intimate moment spent with Audrey Rose and Thomas. Those who consider themselves Cressworth shippers will be more than satisfied with how this book handles the couple’s relationship and caps off one of the best slow burns we’ve ever read.

Capturing the Devil by Kerri Maniscalco

While I thoroughly enjoyed the plot of this novel and the lovely character moments, my favorite aspect of this book is a bit more intangible. What I loved most was how, out of everything this novel excels at, it’s most successful and effective in the way in which it brings everything full circle.

From fun cameos of characters we’ve spent time with in the past to introducing new perspectives on past interactions to connecting the mystery of this final novel to that of the first, Kerri Maniscalco expertly and effortlessly interweaves even some of the smallest details in this book to its predecessors. There are so many fun and fascinating connections to be made that it’s hard to not want to reread the series from the beginning almost immediately after reading the last page.

Not only that, but the sheer scope of the entire series (not to mention the attention to detail and careful plotting that interweaves so much of the series’ history) is revealed in this novel and it is impressive. I’m talking about the overarching story as a whole, not just the details. Clues and puzzle pieces that I never knew were missing are exposed here, weaving a far larger tapestry, story-wise, than I realized. The magnitude of the details revealed in this novel (as well as the author’s note following its conclusion) demonstrate just how much of a long game the series has been playing and how much was envisioned before Maniscalco ever started writing it.

If you’re like me, this book will make you question everything you were confident that you knew about the series, including the sheer fact that we’ve called it the “Stalking Jack the Ripper series” all this time. There are no giant, unexpected twists in this novel, but there are just enough new details here that will change the way you view the series in the best way possible.

Capturing the Devil is a fitting send-off for an enthralling, captivating, and addicting series. There’s a little something in this book for everyone, from the hopeless romantics to the gothic murderheads and everyone in between. This book strikes the perfect balance of striking out in a new direction while also carrying its history along for the ride, which is something that final novels often struggle to do.

It’s going to be extremely difficult to say goodbye to Audrey Rose and Thomas, but I’ll be waiting with baited breath to read what Kerri Maniscalco has in store for all of us next.

Stalking Jack the Ripper, “Beyond life, beyond death; my love for thee is eternal.”

Capturing the Devil by Kerri Maniscalco is available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository, and your local independent bookstore. Also, don’t forget to add it to your Goodreads “to read” list!

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