Sunday, February 12, 2017

Review: The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry

The Fifth Petal (The Lace Reader, Book #2)
by Brunonia Barry
Release Date: January 24th 2017
2017 Crown
Ebook Edition; 432 Pages
ISBN: 978-1101905609
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

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?

My Thoughts
The Fifth Petal is the second book in the Lace Reader series, and although the author makes references to the first book, it is not necessary to have read it in order to enjoy this one.  I didn't read the first one, and didn't feel like I was missing anything from the story, although I will read it when I get a chance as I am curious as to what happened.  

I was drawn to this book because of the setting, no question.  I love anything to do with Salem, paranormal or not, as I am intrigued with its history and its development.  While I enjoyed the characters and the story line in this novel, I did find it somewhat drawn out, and I felt like the author lost sight of the actual murder investigation in lieu of the developing romance between Callie and the son of a prominent member of the town.  Although I did find the historical aspects of the story fascinating, including the search for more details on the original residents of Salem and those who were executed and how it relates to the current residents of Salem and surrounding areas, and the way the author just gave tidbits of information drawing the reader into the story so they could learn more as the story progressed, it just wasn't enough to make up for the drawn-out mystery.  I did enjoy the basic story, but I never felt truly engrossed into the story or in their lives.    

To be honest, I think part of the problem was there were too many story lines going on and I was never sure exactly which one was the main part of the story.  When Sheriff Rafferty began looking into a 25-year-old triple homicide, I thought it would be more a police procedural than it was, but there wasn't really a lot of investigating going on. For those of us who read police procedurals on a regular basis, it was a bit disappointing, to be honest. I liked the man, and I thought the author did a great job showing how people can panic and do silly things when scared, but I just felt like something was missing. Then you have Rose Whelan, a woman who was quite respected for her historical research into the Salem witch trial, now thought to be guilty of the homicide and talking to trees in search of the answers to the case. I really didn't know what to think about that, and it's not because I don't like the paranormal, it's just because it didn't seem to fit into the story very well.  Then there was all of the drama with Towner's aunt and the home for abused women on the island with all of its secrets. Then there was the feud between two founding members of the town, going on for centuries, with explanations that were not fully satisfactory.  While each of the story lines would be very interesting on their own, I am wondering if there was too much going on, and the author should have just focused on one or two for the novel, and left some of these brewing in the background for future novels.

The Fifth Petal, while interesting in its own way, was more a love story rather than a murder / mystery and I found this to be a bit disappointing.  I did like the characters however, and thought they were quirky enough to be interesting, and would like learn more about them.  There were huge aspects of the book that were quite irrelevant to the story, and were used as filler, but she is a good writer so I went along with them.  I definitely liked the historical tie-ins to the witch trials and although nothing new was really revealed, it was still interesting, and it is evident a lot of research went into it.  If you think you can plow through this one, then I would recommend it just for the writing and the historical research.  If you are looking for a murder / mystery, then I would pass.


  1. Excellent review! It doesn't quite sound like my proverbial cup of tea.