First, you must know that Brunonia Barry is a local author. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts, a city rife with historical significance, and also the city where I teach. I was first drawn to Barry's novels because of Salem's storied past, along with my love of reading fiction set in places that I know in real life. I first read The Map of True Places in college and loved both Barry's writing style and her penchant for bringing the past to life in a contemporary novel. Last year, I picked up The Lace Reader and was blown away by the surprise ending. The Fifth Petal is the sequel to The Lace Reader and will be released next week on January 24th. If you haven't yet read The Lace Reader but think you might be interested, stop reading here and go grab it off the library shelf! Be warned, spoilers ahead.
The Fifth Petal begins sometime after the ending of The Lace Reader. In it, Rafferty, our charming and flawed investigator, is married to Towner and has been promoted to chief of police. The story opens with a new look into an old cold case -- what's known locally as The Goddess Murders. Back in the late eighties, three beautiful and notoriously promiscuous friends had formed a mysterious clique, naming themselves The Goddesses and using their ancestral link to the convicted witches of Salem as part of their lure for Salem's eligible (and ineligible) men. One night, they are brutally murdered at the site of a Wiccan ceremony. There are only two survivors from the ceremony -- an old woman named Rose and a five year old child, daughter of a goddess, who is whisked away to be raised by nuns after the traumatic incident. Flash forward to modern day, and Rose has become Salem's resident crazy homeless lady, while Callie (the traumatized child), returns to Salem to find that so much of her past is not what she thought it was. Old faces from both The Lace Reader and The Map of True Places come into play as Rafferty and Callie work to find out what really happened on the night of the Goddess Murders and how it's all connected to those original Salem witches.
I have to say that the beginning of this novel was a teensy, tiny bit slow for me. I wasn't really sure what Barry was getting at and went into it thinking that more loose ends from The Lace Reader would be addressed. I'm still waiting on some of those loose ends (Barry has commented that it will happen in book 3!) but as soon both Rafferty and Callie started to discover more details about the night of the murders, the more suspenseful it got and the more I became invested in Callie's character and her backstory. Over time, I tried to make my predictions about the resolution to the mystery, but if there's one thing Barry writes well, it's an all-is-revealed, high-intensity ending. This one absolutely rivaled the ending of The Lace Reader. If you enjoyed the first I'd highly recommend this second installment. You still have almost a week to pre-order your copy before its release -- enough time to have it on your doorstep early next week!
Bottom Line Rating: 5/5
Title: The Fifth Petal
Author: Brunonia Barry
Publisher: Crown, 2017
Price: $20 to pre-order on Amazon
Source: Net Galley
Note: Top Shelf Text was provided with a copy of this text by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own!