Pub. Date: January 24th, 2017
“Do you think, inside, every one of us is a killer?”
This is the question that haunts the people of Salem, Massachusetts, in Brunonia Barry’s spellbinding, masterful new thriller, THE FIFTH PETAL, a tale of otherworldly powers, ancient myths, and a gruesome triple homicide. Ten years after her New York Times bestselling debut novel THE LACE READER became an international sensation, Barry revisits contemporary Salem, where the dark history of the paranormal continues to reverberate in the lives of the Whitney family and their neighbors. With its release, THE LACE READER became an overnight success, winning numerous awards and rave reviews from the New York Times, Washington Post, Time, New York, People, and being named an Amazon Best Book of the Month. Barry, born and raised in Salem, now returns with a complex brew of suspense, seduction, and murder in her highly anticipated novel THE FIFTH PETAL.
When a teenage boy dies suspiciously on Halloween night, Salem’s chief of police, John Rafferty, now married to gifted lace reader Towner Whitney, wonders if there is a connection between his death and Salem’s most notorious cold case, “The Goddess Murders,” in which three young women, all descended from accused Salem witches, were slashed on Halloween night in 1989. Now Rafferty must uncover who, or what, is killing the descendants of Salem’s accused witches, while keeping the town’s paranoia—all too similar to the hysteria that lead to the infamous witch trials—at bay.
As Rafferty begins to uncover a dark chapter of Salem’s past, he finds unexpected help from Callie Cahill, the daughter of one of the Goddess victims, who has recently returned to town. Discovered at the scene of the crime when she was five years old, Callie survived the mysterious massacre with only scratches on her arms and a perfect stigmata of a five-petal rose in the palm of her bloodied hand. Now Callie, who has always been gifted with premonitions, begins to struggle with visions she doesn’t quite understand and an attraction to a man who has unknown connections to her mother’s murder. Neither Rafferty nor Callie believes the main suspect, Rose Whelan, respected local historian and honorary aunt to Callie, is guilty of murder or witchcraft. But clearing Rose’s name might mean crossing paths with a dangerous force. Were the women victims of an all-too-human vengeance, or was the devil raised in Salem that night? And if Rafferty and Callie can’t discover what happened that night, will evil rise again?
Grounded in Salem’s true, dark history, Brunonia Barry paints a complex, eerie portrait of a modern New England town living in the past. With magical realism that will appeal to readers of Erin Morgenstern and gothic suspense echoing Deborah Harkness, THE FIFTH PETAL brings the world of Salem to life with Barry’s signature rich and twisting prose. Suspenseful, sinister, and masterfully composed, THE FIFTH PETAL is a haunting novel that will grip audiences long after the final page.
What Did I Think About the Story?
I read Brunonia Barry's debut novel, The Lace Reader, a number of years ago and remember really enjoying it (this was before the days when I wrote reviews regularly, so I can't remember the specifics unfortunately). When I saw she was releasing a new book I jumped at the chance to review it. I was pleasantly surprised to see that some of the same characters populated this newest novel, The Fifth Petal, and was excited to see how their stories might have evolved and meshed with the new characters and this new murder mystery happening in their mystical town. Those who haven't read The Lace Reader need not worry as this story stands on its own very well, although the crossover characters do seem to want to steal the story away from its main focus (more to come on that below).
The mysteries at the heart of the story - who killed "The Goddesses" back in 1989? Was Rose Whelan somehow involved? - were really well presented and I loved how each new discovery seemed to open up more questions and secrets about the residents of Salem, both in the modern time and during its dark past. The fact that many of the characters are eccentric and touched by the mystical makes it difficult to figure out if what we are being told (and not told) is the truth, a fantasy, or some amalgamation of the two. I love when a story can keep me guessing like this! It was also helpful having John Rafferty be such a steady voice of reason and scientific evidence, following the clues and not just the speculation, so that the final answers to the mysteries felt justifiable and fact based even when laced with magic.
Something else I found very well done was the connections made to the hysteria and vengefulness surrounding the initial Salem Witch Trials and what the town of Salem was experiencing in this much more modern world. It was amazing to see just how fast the people of Salem became vicious and began not only pointing fingers at Rose - a woman who was homeless and defiant and, admittedly, a little weird - but attacking the Goddesses - the victims of a heinous attack - for being seductresses and possible witches just because they were promiscuous young women when they were alive. Adding on the reach and scope of internet trolls and reporters blasting their unfounded opinions on this criminal case really drove home the fact that we, as a society, haven't come that far from the superstitious and unaccepting beliefs of our ancestors.
Where the story lost some of my appreciation was in the secondary storylines that laced within the main mystery and didn't seem to have anything to do with it at all. A good amount of time was given to dealing with relationship issues between John Rafferty, his wife, Towner, and Towner's mother, as well as the work both Towner and her mother do for abused women in the area. While these were interesting components and would make good discussion in their own story, it felt like it pulled away from what should have been a taut and dark mystery. There was also a long chapter dealing with Callie living outside the country with another character (I don't want to give anything away) and this felt completely unnecessary to the rest of the story. The book is over 400 pages and could have done with some editing out of these extraneous elements and storylines.
The Fifth Petal presented a really interesting mystery that weaved its fingers in and out of the past and present beautifully. Without the extraneous storylines and characters pulling me away from the main focus this would have been a real page turner for me. Even with these added elements I still enjoyed my time with these characters and in their unique town. I'm interested to see what Ms. Barry writes next and hope she returns to these characters again (maybe giving them their own stories!).
What Did I Think About the Cover?
It's beautiful!! In person the rose petals look real and the cover is slightly glossy so I couldn't help but keep flipping back to the front to look at it. The five petals and the thickly rooted tree are very important to the story as well, which is a wonderful addition. This might be my favorite cover so far this year!
My Rating: 3.5/5.0
Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Crown Publishing for providing me with a free copy of The Fifth Petal in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. Please continue below for more information about the book, the author, and the blog tour!
Praise for The Fifth Petal
“In contemporary Salem, a murder has taken place, with roots that reach back to the seventeenth-century witch trials. Filled with twists and turns, as well as ancient tradition and modern mystery, Barry’s story has deft pacing, a marvelous sense of place, and a quirky cast of characters. The Fifth Petal is another haunting tale by the author of The Lace Reader where past and present collide.”
— DEBORAH HARKNESS, New York Times bestselling author of the All Souls trilogy
“Brunonia Barry’s Salem is alive with rich history, and with a unique and colorful cast of characters: witches and healers, lace readers, the well-to-do and the down-and-out. And everyone’s got secrets. The Fifth Petal is a mesmerizing take on the ways the past affects and influences the present. “Time isn’t linear,” says one of the characters, and the way Barry artfully weaves together a modern-day crime, a twenty-five-year-old murder case, and the Salem witch trials, you’ll close the book believing that she’s absolutely right.” — JENNIFER MCMAHON, New York Times bestselling author of The Winter People and The Night Sister
“There is true magic in The Fifth Petal, where Salem’s dark history of murder threatens to destroy yet one more young woman, a descendant of one of the accused witches. As in The Lace Reader, Brunonia Barry weaves together ancient myths, modern mysteries and the power and wisdom of a cabal of fearless women who’ve been touched by the invisible world.” — KATHLEEN KENT, author of The Heretic’s Daughter
“Brunonia Barry has done it again. If you liked The Lace Reader, you’re going to love her new novel, The Fifth Petal. A real page-turner about murder and prejudice and love and what’s possible and what isn’t. Enjoy.”— B.A. SHAPIRO, New York Times bestselling author of The Art Forger and The Muralist
“A seductive combination of suspense, history, myth – with a sprinkling of the supernatural – The Fifth Petal is an enormously satisfying mystery novel. Brunonia Barry has created a world that is at once inviting and menacing, populated by characters both warmly familiar and surprising.” — ANDREW PYPER, author of The Damned and The Demonologist
“There are many writers who write wonderful books… then there are those rare writers who make magic. Brunonia Barry proves once again she is a sorcerer. Transported to Salem, I was lost in a Gothic tale that only the author of The Lace Reader could have conjured.”— M.J. ROSE, New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Language of Stones
“Written with pens dipped in magic and chills, THE FIFTH PETAL uncovers hidden corners where myth, malevolence, and fervor converge in Salem, Massachusetts. Tendrils from the past and present wrap the complicated characters—and the reader’s attention—until the stunning final sentence. Brunonia Barry weaves miracles.”— RANDY SUSAN MEYERS, bestselling author of The Murderer’s Daughters
“The Fifth Petal is a brilliant and suspenseful tale that prods at embers still live in a buried past. By weaving together the lost evidence of two Salem tragedies, Brunonia Barry’s novel prompts profound consideration of the respect for history, the importance of resolution, and the power of voice. Highly recommended.”— THERESE WALSH, author of The Moon Sisters
“Spellbinding! Clear your schedule–this beautifully written and seamlessly researched tale is a thriller, a romance, and a deeply felt investigation of the witch frenzy that haunts us to this day–and it’s the book everyone will be buzzing about. Surprising, compelling and profound–even revelatory–it will stay with you long after the last page.” — HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN, Agatha, Anthony, and Mary Higgins Clark award winning author
“Barry fans will welcome the return of beloved characters and the introduction of new ones into a contemporary Salem appropriately fraught with remnants and reminders of its dark and twisted history. This spooky, multilayered medley of mysteries is sure to be a bestseller.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Banshees, lost memories, and secret pasts each play a significant role in this novel; enthusiasts of the author’s earlier work and readers interested in the history of witchcraft and the occult will enjoy this return visit to Salem.”—Library Journal
“[An] entertaining occult murder mystery.”—Kirkus Reviews
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About the Author
Brunonia Barry is the New York Times and international best selling author of The Lace Reader and
|© Scott Booth Photography|
It's Giveaway Time!!!
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to offer up one copy of The Fifth Petal for giveaway (US only)! All you have to do is enter your name and email address on the giveaway form HERE. Please be sure to leave both your name and your email on the form so I can contact you if you are my winner (no email address, no entry!). For extra entries you can follow the blog in various ways (links are on the right hand sidebar) and leave the name/email you follow with on the form. That's it!
I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner on January 31st, 2017 and will announce the winner here as well as email the winner. The winner will then have 48 hours to respond to my email with their full mailing address. If I don't hear back I'll pick a new winner. If you have already won this giveaway on another site please let me know so I can pick a new winner and give someone else a chance to win a copy of this great book.
TLC Book Tour Schedule
Monday, January 23rd: Books Without Any Pictures
Tuesday, January 24th: A Literary Vacation
Wednesday, January 25th: Reading Reality
Thursday, January 26th: Wall to Wall Books
Friday, January 27th: 100 Pages a Day
Monday, January 30th: Write Read Life
Tuesday, January 31st: WV Stitcher
Wednesday, February 1st: Kahakai Kitchen
Thursday, February 2nd: Art @ Home
Monday, February 6th: I Brought a Book
Wednesday, February 8th: I Wish I Lived in a Library
Thursday, February 9th: The Paperback Pilgrim
Monday, February 13th: Broken Teepee
Wednesday, February 15th: A Bookish Way of Life
Thursday, February 16th: A Chick Who Reads
Monday, February 20th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Wednesday, February 22nd: Thoughts on This ‘n That