The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry

(I want to thank Bloggingforbooks for allowing me to review this book.)

Beloved author Brunonia Barry returns to the world of THE LACE READER with this spellbinding new thriller, a complex brew of suspense, seduction and murder.

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, a triple homicide dubbed “The Goddess Murders,” in which three young women, all descended from accused Salem witches, were slashed on Halloween night in 1989. He finds unexpected help in Callie Cahill, the daughter of one of the victims newly returned to town. Neither believes that the main suspect, Rose Whelan, respected local historian, is guilty of murder or witchcraft. But exonerating Rose 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 they cannot discover what truly happened, will evil rise again?



The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry is an intriguing mystery set in modern day Salem.  However, the city’s dark past features heavily in a story that is rife with references to the Salem witch trials, modern day witchcraft and psychic phenomena.  Although this newest release is the second installment in the The Lace Reader series, it can be read as a standalone. It’s important to point out that while this is a murder mystery, the author’s writing style has a strong literary element. The pace is slow, with a heavy focus on the mood and the emotional relationships between the characters. If you go into this book expecting a fast-paced mystery with a lot of suspense, you might be disappointed. This is an expansive, sweeping tale, encompassing many characters whose separate stories intertwine over the years. The present-day story unfolds over a two-year span, but also reaches back to the unsolved murders in 1989, which then links all the way back to 1692 and the 19 witches killed then. While complex, the plot is laid out well and I had no problem following along. The supernatural aspects are gradually woven in, blending modern-day witchcraft and healing with more otherworldly possibilities. We also have romance, mystery, and suspense, set against a backdrop of family drama. Something that I found to be 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. THE FIFTH PETAL is a book to be read carefully with each page. It is a story filled with interesting characters. There are secrets upon secrets that are craftily woven into the plot and, just when you think you might have figured out what is going on; you discover that you could not be more wrong. Those that have read Barry’s other books and liked them will enjoy this one; likewise those that are drawn to various aspects of modern spiritual healing and Wiccan practices will also be pleased. For myself, I would enjoy her work more if she didn’t try to jam such an extensive collection of minutiae into a single novel.



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