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The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Isn't this a beautiful cover!  It features the five petals of the Rosa rugosa and The Tree of Life.

This week I read The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry.  I was so excited to get the opportunity to read the ARC via TLC Book Tours because I loved The Lace Reader, the first book in this series.  Although I don't think it's necessary to read The Lace Reader first, I do think it would be helpful.  I had to go back and reread excerpts from The Lace Reader because I'd forgotten a very important plot point, and it was confusing me in The Fifth Petal.  But in my defense, I read The Lace Reader seven years ago!

If you'd like to read my review of The Lace Reader, click on this link.

According to Goodreads:

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. 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? 

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My Review:

First of all, it was fun to "catch-up" with John Rafferty and Towner Whitley and see how happily married they are.  But because Rafferty is investigating a suspicious death that is related to the Goddess murders almost three decades earlier, Rafferty is featured more in the book than Towner.

Callie's story is heartbreaking.  She witnessed the brutal murder of her mother when she was a young child, and the nuns who reared her lied to her about Rose, claiming that she, too, had died the night of the goddess murders.  Callie had lived with Rose before the murders, and Rose took better care of her than her own mother.  Had she not seen a news report about a young man's mysterious death and Rose's connection, then she would have never known Rose is still alive, and she would've never returned to Salem.

I had a difficult time with Rose's character.  She is mentally ill due to the stress of witnessing the violent goddess murders, and she talks in riddles, so she's an unreliable witness.  Before the murders she had been a respected Salem historian only to become homeless preferring to live under Salem's oak trees.  She claims the trees speak to her, and she's trying to find the original hanging tree used for the witch killings in 1692. The trees tell her:

"Find the hanging tree and you'll solve the mystery.  
Find the tree and finish the blessing.  
For it is not just the wrongly executed who need God's mercy, but the tree itself for the part it was forced to play."

Her goal the night of the goddess killings: to consecrate the land surrounding the tree because the officials didn't allow the witches a Christian burial.  Two families of the executed returned and buried their loved ones in spite of the law, but three of the bodies vanished.  Rose and each of the goddesses are direct descendants from the five who were executed, and supposedly only a direct descendant can consecrate the land hence giving those accused and executed for witchcraft a Christian burial.  Rose also claims that she is the vessel for a violent Banshee who had once been a Celtic goddess that had been imprisoned in an oak tree.  She had contained this vicious spirit for almost thirty years until Halloween night when she has a run-in with Billy Barnes and his friends.  As Billy is bullying and harassing Rose, he drops dead.

Callie is determined to prove Rose's innocence.  It's difficult for her to investigate because people in Salem recognize her and are suspicious of her.  She meets Paul, one of the Brahmins of the area, and because of their love (and an amazing trip to Italy where Paul is restoring the cave churches in Matera for graduate school) Callie can sleep again without the horrible visions and nightmares that always plague her.  I enjoyed the romance aspect of the book very much, and I hope that we see more of Callie and Paul in future installments of the series.

This book is definitely a mystery: there are several mysteries in the book, actually, but the biggie is who is the "fifth petal."  There is also romance, suspense and magical realism.  I also enjoyed the symbolism of the five petaled rose, and the Celtic lore (especially the banshee).  Where I think this book falls short is the supernatural.  It's there in a nuanced way, but I wish that Brunonia Barry had been a bit more clear and direct with the supernatural components.

Rosa rugosa is mentioned several times during the book including its symbolism in Christian and pagan doctrine

I highly recommend this series if you're interested in the history of Salem, magical realism, and romance.

Disclosure:  I received an ARC of The Fifth Petal from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill


  1. I really wish you would QUIT giving me all these books to add to my list. I think if I read a book a week (and I usually have 2 or 3 going at any one time) I won't have enough weeks of life left to finish them all. This sounds like another good book. xo Diana

  2. You always read interesting books...with lots of twists and turns! Happy reading my friend! Hugs, Diane

  3. Wow, this sounds like it's got a little of everything and a lot of twists and turns! When my cousin researched our family tree, she found a relative that was deemed a witch and burned in Salem! I've been trying to keep this info a secret from my husband :)

  4. I didn't read THE LACE READER (though I meant to) but now I see that I need to go back and pick it up, and read this one next!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.


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I'm Ricki Jill. Welcome! I'm honored that you're reading my blog. I enjoy sharing my creative lifestyle @ The Bookish Dilettante. For more information about my blog, please read the Start Here page. Thank-you for stopping by, and I hope you'll consider following me via email.


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