Thanks to NetGalley and Crown for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: January 24th, 2017
Synopsis: Salem’s chief of police, John Rafferty, now married to gifted lace reader Towner Whitney, investigates a 25-year-old triple homicide dubbed “The Goddess Murders”, in which three young women, all descended from accused Salem witches, were slashed one Halloween night. Aided by Callie Cahill, the daughter of one of the victims who has returned to town, Rafferty begins to uncover a dark chapter in Salem’s past. 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 believes that the main suspect, Rose Whelan, respected local historian and sometime-aunt to Callie, is guilty of murder or witchcraft. But exonerating Rose might mean crossing paths with a dangerous force. We’re 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 is the second book in the Lace Reader series and while it works fine as a standalone, I recommend reading the previous book first because it’ll add more to your reading experience. I have to admit both the premise and setting particularly appeal to me as I live in Danvers, MA which was formerly known as Salem Village. I grew up hearing all the stories about the witchcraft hysteria of 1692, and have made many visits to the Rebecca Nurse House as well as the museums in Salem. What I really appreciate about Brunonia Barry’s writing, is her meticulous research into the subject. While I’m not a historian, from what I do know, she’s gotten everything right in both books, even down to the fact that the victims hung, were not done so at the infamous Gallows Hill, but were done so from a tree that now overlooks a Walgreens of all places. She also does a fantastic job at capturing the essence of modern day Salem, beginning with the insanity of it’s Halloween celebrations which attract people from all over the country. There are two storylines in this book. One takes place in 1989 and concerns the murders of three women known as the “Goddesses”. The second mystery is set in 2014 and concerns the mysterious death of a teenage boy. What ties these two mysteries together are the two survivors of the first murders: Rose Whelan, who was once a respected expert on the Salem Witchcraft trials but is now mentally unstable and a prime suspect in both murders; and Callie Cahill whose mother was one of the victims in 1989. I really like how the characters are written in this book, even the relatively minor ones. They’re all interesting and each has something to add to the story. Callie though, really stands out both for her tragic backstory, as well as how her past has led her to become a music therapist. I found the concept of treating people in pain with singing bowls especially interesting. For the most part, this is a fast-paced book, although there is a section where Callie and her new boyfriend head off to Italy, which really adds nothing to the story and slows things down a bit. There are quite a few twists and turns which kept me guessing right up until the end. There are also some paranormal aspects to which adds to the mystery. Overall, while I didn’t like The Fifth Petal quite as much as The Lace Reader, it’s still a thoroughly enjoyable read. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys mysteries and historical fiction and is especially interested in the Salem Witchcraft hysteria. I’m looking forward to the third book, Bone Lace which will hopefully be out next year.