Review: The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry

Title: The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry
The Lace Reader Series Book Two
Publisher: Crown
Genre: Contemporary, Supernatural, Mystery/Suspense
Length: 448 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


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, mordern 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.

In 1989, three young women (dubbed the Goddesses) were brutally murdered and although everyone in Salem is convinced Rose Whelan is the killer, the case still remains open.  Twenty-five years later, there is renewed interest in the case when a confrontation between Rose and three teens ends with the death of their ringleader, Billy Barnes.  Local police chief John Rafferty has doubts about Rose’s guilt and due to her fragile mental state, he arranges for her to go to the state mental hospital until she is coherent enough to answer his questions.  When Rose’s honorary niece, Callie Cahill, who  was present at the attack twenty-five years earlier, learns that Rose is alive and in trouble, she returns to Salem to help exonerate her aunt of the crimes she is suspected of committing.   Trying to keep her identity under wraps for as long as possible,  Callie stays with Rafferty and his wife, Towner Whitney, while she tries to figure out who is responsible for murdering her mom, Olivia Cahill and her friends Cheryl Cassella and Susan Symms twenty-five years ago.  At the same time, Rafferty has unofficially reopened the case and begins searching for the fourth Goddess, Leah, who has not been seen since the night the other three women were killed.  Is Leah the murderer?  Or is there a far more sinister reason behind her disappearance?

Before the Goddess murders, Rose is a well-respected historian and scholar of Salem’s rather colorful history.  Rose’s fascination with uncovering the truth about the exact location the deaths of those persecuted during the Salem witch trials figures prominently in the events of the night the three women were murdered.  In the aftermath of the horrible crime, Rose is convinced a banshee killed the women and her long battle with mental illness began.  Now homeless and obsessed with oak trees, Rose is feared by the townspeople so it easy for everyone to accuse her of murdering Billy.  She is once again committed to the mental hospital while Rafferty begins his investigation into both cases.

After her mother’s murder, Callie became a ward of the state and bounced between foster homes and a Catholic orphanage.  While she has a successful career as a musical therapist, she is plagued with nightmares from the night her mother and her friends were killed and she really has no close ties with anyone.  Shocked to discover the sisters lied to her about Rose, Callie drops everything to rush back to Salem to help her honorary aunt.  The secrets from the night the Goddesses died slowly return to her the longer she remains in town.  Her involvement with the Whiting family, whose history in Salem in also closely intertwined with Marta Hathorne and her ancestors, helps unlock many of her long forgotten memories of the events of the night of the Goddess murders.  Callie tries to ignore her startling attraction to Paul Whiting and when their friendship deepens into love, their romance has very unexpected consequences.

Although a little slow-paced,  The Fifth Petal is an engrossing mystery that has supernatural elements including modern day witchcraft and psychic abilities.  The investigation into the Goddess murders moves at a snail’s pace as Rafferty painstakingly reviews old case files and re-interviews witnesses. Brunonia Barry expertly weaves all of the novel’s various threads into a credible tale of suspense, murder and revenge.  It is an absolutely fascinating addition to The Lace Reader series that old and new fans are sure to enjoy.

1 Comment

Filed under Brunonia Barry, Contemporary, Crown, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Supernatural Elements, Suspense, The Fifth Petal, The Lace Reader Series

One Response to Review: The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry

  1. Timitra

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Kathy