"The Fifth Petal": A Book Review

Jess Balliet

4.5 Stars

November 8, 2017

The subtitle of this book is, “A Novel of Salem.” It had me at that. I’ve always been fascinated by the Salem witch hunt and trials but from a purely psychological viewpoint. This novel being set in Salem hooked me. Throw in the hunt for a serial killer, and you can begin to reel. Throw in the fact that the present day killing may be linked to witch hunt era Salem, and you’ve caught yourself a fish! Even though this read more like a Young Adult novel than contemporary adult fiction, I still found it highly enjoyable at my ripe old age of 42 (I’m about 1/3 through MY expected life span, so technically I AM a young adult…call it suspension of disbelief if you’re not buying it.) The characters are well defined and likeable. For the most part, anyway. I mean, who, other than a lifelong student of human psychopathology would find a killer to be likeable? The plot is fairly tight without a whole bunch of holes (like what I did there?). Most people seem to prefer a story that’s perfectly packaged without any room for speculation. I love stories, be they neatly wrapped or just thinly veiled with tissue paper. I don’t like to spill the contents in my reviews. I’m not writing an excerpt. I’m reviewing. If you want to know who did what, and whether or not that what was indeed or not indeed related to the centuries old murders, then you’ll have to read it yourself. My job is to tell you If I think it’s worth your time to do so. In the case of “The Fifth Petal: A Novel of Salem,” my answer to that question is yes. In fact I found enjoyable enough to purchase another of Barry’s books. I’m patiently awaiting its arrival. And that’s all I have to say about that. About the Author Brunonia Barry is the New York Times and international best selling author of The Lace Reader, The Map of True Places, and her latest book: The Fifth Petal. 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 Invitational Fellowship as well as the winner of New England Book Festival’s award for Best Fiction. Her reviews and articles on writing have appeared in the London Times and the Washington Post, and the Huffington Post. Brunonia co-chairs the Salem Athenaeum’s Writers’ Committee. She lives in Salem with her husband Gary Ward and their dog, Angel. Gary and Bru are the organizers of the Salem Literary Festival.