The story opens in Salem, Massachusetts Halloween 1989. A group of women is gathered together to consecrate the ground where the hangings of the accused witches in 1692 took place. Then suddenly they are attacked. There are 2 survivors. One is a 5-year-old young girl who was hidden by one of the women in some briars. The other is one of the women that the girl calls Auntie Rose aka Rose Whelan – the leader of the event.
Callie, the young girl, has no recollection of the event, but she has a scar on the palm of her hand in the shape of a rose from holding onto the rosary that Auntie Rose gave her so tightly while she was hidden. Rose appears to have lost her mind as a result of the attack and claims that it was a banshee that attacked and killed the young women collectively known as ‘The Goddesses.’
Salem, Massachusetts 2014, 25 years later to the day, Rose is again implicated in an attack. This time on a young boy – a bit of a hoodlum. There are no marks on his body, but she was present when he died. She claims the banshee did it again.
John Rafferty, chief of police of Salem, finds himself in a position where he believes that Rose had nothing to do with either incident. He decides he must reopen the cold case of The Goddesses’ murders.
Most of the book is from Callie’s point of view, but a fair amount is also from Rafferty’s point of view. Callie starts to have vivid dreams of what happened in the past and shares these with Rafferty. Meanwhile, Rafferty goes through legal channels and old evidence trying to solve the cold case while he waits for a cause of death of the boy.
It’s mostly Callie’s story. And she gets involved with local old families. One member of which is responsible for triggering some of her most vivid dreams.
There is history, mystery and a touch of romance in The Fifth Petal. I read the first book in this series, The Lace Reader, a while back. It was a good book, but not as good as The Fifth Petal. Brunonia Barry’s writing seems to have improved in the time between the two books. You can read The Fifth Petal without having read The Lace Reader and still enjoy it. Truthfully, I remembered little of the first book. Towner and Rafferty were both characters in the first book and have roles in this one as well – Rafferty a little more so than Towner.
There are some things that you might consider either paranormal or magical realism elements. There is the ability to see the future by reading lace that is mentioned. And there is the way that Towner, Callie, and some of the other people seem to know things before they happen or are said by people. There is Callie’s use of musical therapy for healing. And finally, there is the question of the banshee. Is she real?
Overall, it’s a good book. I give it 4 out of 5 stars. It’s well written. The mystery is good. The inclusion of the history is a plus. The author tells some of what is real vs pure fiction in the acknowledgments. I may have enjoyed it more because of the history in it. The 1692 events in Salem have always interested me. I would recommend the book to anyone who enjoys a good mystery with a few possibly paranormal elements and a touch of romance. If you like Salem and its history, then you will enjoy it even more.
The Fifth Petal was released January 24, 2017 from Crown.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.