Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Crown (January 24, 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 (January 24, 2017; Crown), 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.
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Long after the Salem Witch Trials in 1692, another seemingly familiar tragedy has struck the town. In 1989, three young women were brutally murdered at the alleged site of the original hangings. The women were attempting to consecrate the ground in remembrance of their ancestors, the women that were hanged. The murdered women were dubbed the Goddesses and had seemingly bewitched the town, especially the men. There were two survivors, five year old Callie Cahill, whose mother was among the murdered and historian Rose Whelan who had brought the women together and looked after them. After the murders, Callie was taken in by a group of nuns in another town and Rose was left mentally unstable, a suspect in a crime she could never commit. Presently, Salem's police chief John Rafferty would love to solve the 25 year old cold case, but has never had a reason to open it up. However, when the now homeless Rose is wrapped up in another death, John wants to clear her name for good. Rose ends up on the news and, much to Callie's surprise, she learns Rose is alive. Callie races back to Salem to help the woman she once called her aunt. When Callie arrives, the suppressed memories begin floating back and she suspects that there is more than just foul play, and perhaps some magic may be involved.
This was a very intriguing murder mystery with just enough elements of the paranormal woven through to keep me guessing and enough history brought in to keep my interest. I do really wish I had known that this was the second book in a series, but I didn't feel like I was missing anything. One of the really interesting aspects for me was Rose's banshee. I enjoyed learning about the different stories of banshee mythology as well as having the belief that the banshee could actually be responsible for the crimes. The author did a wonderful job of playing the natural and supernatural and bringing them together. There were several mysteries at play in the story: who murdered the Goddesses? How were the Goddesses connected to the hanged women? and where was the missing Goddess? The mysteries were all woven together well and I did not feel overwhelmed. I really had no idea which element was responsible for what and I truly had no idea who was responsible for the murders till very near the end. Callie and Rose were amazing characters. Although Rose has a mental illness, I never felt like her character was belittled or demeaned, and Callie's faith in Rose was heartwarming. Callie, who could have been easily taken advantage of was continuously strong and confident in herself and grew in her abilities. Overall, this is a complex modern-day murder mystery that artfully weaves in history and aspects of the paranormal that makes this book hard to put down.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
Brunonia Barry is the New York Times and international best selling author of The Lace Reader and The Map of True Places. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages. She was the first American author to win the International Women’s Fiction Festival’s Baccante Award and was a past recipient of Ragdale Artists’ Colony’s Strnad Fellowship as well as the winner of New England Book Festival’s award for Best Fiction and Amazon’s Best of the Month. Her reviews and articles on writing have appeared in The London Times and The Washington Post. Brunonia co-chairs the Salem Athenaeum’s Writers’ Committee. She lives in Salem with her husband Gary Ward and their dog, Angel. Her new novel, The Fifth Petal will be released in January 2017.
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