“Do you think, inside, every one of us is a killer?”
This is the question that haunts the people of Salem, Massachusetts, in Brunonia Barry’s spellbinding, masterful new thriller, THE FIFTH PETAL (January 24, 2017; Crown), a tale of otherworldly powers, ancient myths, and a gruesome triple homicide. Ten years after her New York Times bestselling debut novel THE LACE READER became an international sensation, Barry revisits contemporary Salem, where the dark history of the paranormal continues to reverberate in the lives of the Whitney family and their neighbors. With its release, THE LACE READER became an overnight success, winning numerous awards and rave reviews from the New York Times, Washington Post, Time, New York, People, and being named an Amazon Best Book of the Month. Barry, born and raised in Salem, now returns with a complex brew of suspense, seduction, and murder in her highly anticipated novel THE FIFTH PETAL.
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, “The Goddess Murders,” in which three young women, all descended from accused Salem witches, were slashed on Halloween night in 1989. Now Rafferty must uncover who, or what, is killing the descendants of Salem’s accused witches, while keeping the town’s paranoia—all too similar to the hysteria that lead to the infamous witch trials—at bay.
As Rafferty begins to uncover a dark chapter of Salem’s past, he finds unexpected help from Callie Cahill, the daughter of one of the Goddess victims, who has recently returned to town. Discovered at the scene of the crime when she was five years old, Callie survived the mysterious massacre with only scratches on her arms and a perfect stigmata of a five-petal rose in the palm of her bloodied hand. Now 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 Rafferty nor Callie believes the main suspect, Rose Whelan, respected local historian and honorary aunt to Callie, is guilty of murder or witchcraft. But clearing Rose’s name 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 Rafferty and Callie can’t discover what happened that night, will evil rise again?
Grounded in Salem’s true, dark history, Brunonia Barry paints a complex, eerie portrait of a modern New England town living in the past. With magical realism that will appeal to readers of Erin Morgenstern and gothic suspense echoing Deborah Harkness, THE FIFTH PETAL brings the world of Salem to life with Barry’s signature rich and twisting prose. Suspenseful, sinister, and masterfully composed, THE FIFTH PETAL is a haunting novel that will grip audiences long after the final page.
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Crown (January 24, 2017)
First off, I have to say how striking the cover of this book is with its gorgeous blues and the rose petals--it conjures up the lushness of the story, the rich history and the menacing feel that permeates the story inside. The Fifth Petal is a lush and evocative book, capturing me from the get-go with the subject of witches in Salem and their history. Although the story goes mostly between the horrific murder of a trio of young women (called The Goddesses by the town) in 1989 and the mysterious death of a young man twenty-five years later, the folklore and history of the Salem Witch Trials is skillfully woven in--especially as the deaths seem to be happening to descendants of the original women that were hanged back in 1692. We get to know the current day characters the most, Callie Cahill, daughter of one of the 1989 victims who was there the night of the murders, but was only five and has repressed most of her memories and John Rafferty, the local police chief who came well after the 1989 crimes but wants to solve the cold case and see justice served. John particularly wants to do right by Rose Whelan, once respected as a historian but who is no homeless, considered crazy and guilty of both the 1989 murders and the 2014 death of the young man (who was bullying her at the time of his death) by most of the town. Rose 's mental state makes her hard to know as well, but all of these characters are well-drawn and interesting and the mysteries and their connections pulled me in.
There are times the book drags--mainly in the middle, but the back-and-forth in the time frame and perspective and the subject kept me going and the action picks up well at the end and had me turning the pages to find out what happened. There are times I had to go back and reread bits to understand them and how the folklore and past related to the current day. It may have had a few too many different angles and history bits fit in that were not completely necessary and it might have made it a tighter book if pared down but I also liked the amount of research and knowledge that went into the story. I had guessed most of the mystery but there were still twists and surprises and overall it left me satisfied and I enjoyed the journey it took me on. I wouldn't say that this book is necessarily a sequel to Berry's popular novel, The Lace Reader--but it does share some of the same characters and places. I actually bought The Lace Reader at a Library sale but did not get a chance to read it before The Fifth Petal--not that I think you need to read them in order, but based on my enjoyment of this book I plan to go back and rectify that as soon as I can.
Don't forget to check at the end of the post for a chance to win a copy.
Author Notes: Brunonia Barry is the New York Times and international best selling author of The Lace Reader and The Map of True Places. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages. She was the first American author to win the International Women’s Fiction Festival’s Baccante Award and was a past recipient of Ragdale Artists’ Colony’s Strnad Fellowship as well as the winner of New England Book Festival’s award for Best Fiction and Amazon’s Best of the Month. Her reviews and articles on writing have appeared in The London Times and The Washington Post. Brunonia co-chairs the Salem Athenaeum’s Writers’ Committee. She lives in Salem with her husband Gary Ward and their dog, Angel. Her new novel, The Fifth Petal will be released in January 2017.
You can connect with Brunonia via her website, Facebook & Twitter.
There is food to be found in The Fifth Petal like the pastries (cinnamon rolls, scones, croissants, and brioches) and teas served at Eve's Lace Tea Room, some with names like Serendipitea, Chakra Chai, Difficult-Tea (black tea with cayenne, cinnamon, and just a hint of cilantro) and other more basic blends like orange and mint. There are also food offerings at Eve's like soft-boiled egg and fruit, salads, and a single pear--cut and perfectly fanned out on the plate with a tiny stripe of honey across the slices. There's mention of a charity dinner with choice of roast beef, salmon or chicken, salad and a dessert of chocolate mousse and madeleines, a Thanksgiving dinner of goose, venison and "every food that might have been offered in New England during the first Thanksgiving feast," port and cheese, a full breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast and orange juice, beef stew with vegetables from the garden, corn bread, jars of canned zucchini, eggnog, a family recipe of Lobster Newberg, apple pie and savory mince pie, Christmas cookies, a dinner of crown roast with wild rice and apples, Parker rolls, sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts, Chinese takeout, pizza in Italy, cold avocado and crab soup and beef tenderloin roast, lobster risotto garnished with flowers, and plenty of alcohol, including some creative drinks like a cocktail with Seven-Up, cloves and Hawaiian Punch and The Green Fairy with absinthe.
The author offers a couple of recipes from the book on her website for book clubs (the Lobster a'la Newberg and a Death in the Evening Cocktail with absinthe and champagne, but since my asthma has been acting up, I wanted to make an herbal tea blend (called a tisane) that would both be a good healthy drink for me and represent the book.
I wanted to make a tisane that nodded to the book of course--the color, the use of rose, and the blood orange for the color. I also wanted to make it work for my own needs--adding ginger, for clearing my sinuses, lemongrass and honey for their anti-bacterial properties, and citrus for the vitamin C. I was going to use dried rose hips (both for color and their vitamin C) but even though I was sure I had some in my pantry, I couldn't seem to find them with my tea and tisane blending ingredients. Instead I grabbed dried hibiscus flower which also has a lot of vitamin C and would also help make the color a bright blood red--not a bad trade off. I decided to add a touch of rose water, both to play up the floral notes and to represent the five petals in the book. If you aren't a fan, you can omit or add less rose water but I think a little helps round out the flavors.
My recipe is below, brewed in a large coffee press (I keep separate one for teas) for ease of straining but have given instructions for making it in a pan on the stove.
Tisane of Lemongrass, Blood Orange, Hibiscus, Ginger & Rose
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 5 Cups)
5 cups water
2-inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and thickly sliced
2 stalks lemongrass, bottom six inches of stalk, sliced or cut and bruised
2 Tbsp dried hibiscus leaves
3-4 thick slices of blood orange
4-5 strips of lemon peel
1/2 to 3/4 tsp rose water, or to taste, optional
honey to taste
blood orange slices and lemongrass stalks to serve (optional)
Put the ginger, lemongrass, dried hibiscus, blood orange slices, and lemon peel into the bottom of a large coffee press and pour water just to the boil over the mixture to the metal rim. Cover and let steep for 15 to 20 minutes and gently press.
Remove cover, stir in rosewater and honey to taste, cover again and let steep another 2 to 3 minutes before serving.
(Alternatively, you can make it in a pan by adding the ingredients up to the rose water and bringing to the boil. Then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, then strain. Add rose water and sweeten with honey to taste.)
Strain and serve hot in tea cups, and/or pour strained tisane into a carafe and chill well in fridge to enjoy cold. Serve over ice and enjoy.
Notes/Results: A nice mix of tangy and sweet with floral notes from the lemongrass and rose water and the pleasant bit of ginger at the finish. I like it hot and that's helpful for the breathing benefits but this mix would be really good and refreshing iced. The hibiscus and blood orange keep it from being too sweet--which you can also adjust with the amount of honey you use. I had two cups last night and saved the rest for today. I would make this again.
I'm linking this post up to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.
Note: A review copy of "The Fifth Petal" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.
You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.
The publisher is generously providing a copy of The Fifth Petal to giveaway (U.S. and Canada addresses, please) here at Kahakai Kitchen.
To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment please (Because I like to read them!) ;-) telling me about your favorite tea or tea drink and/or why you would like to win a copy of the book.
There are a couple of other optional ways to get more entries to win: 1) Tweet about this giveaway or 2) follow me on Twitter (@DebinHawaii), and/or author Brunonia Barry (@BrunoniaBarry), and/or Crown Publishing (@CrownPublishing) on Twitter (Note: You can still get the extra entries even if you already follow me, Barry, and/or Crown on Twitter.)
Deadline for entry is Monday, February 13th.
a Rafflecopter giveaway