Book Review: "The Fifth Petal" by Brunonia Barry

Sandra Philpott

3 Stars

December 1, 2017

Having grown up in the North Shore area of eastern Massachusetts, I am very familiar with the city of Salem and its well-known history of "witch hysteria." Brunonia Barry's "The Fifth Petal" is set against a backdrop of modern Salem, but also delves into its history (both in the 1600s and its more recent history), and Barry does a good job at creating a realistic picture of both settings. Although I wouldn't classify it as a paranormal novel, it certainly includes elements of the paranormal, or at least of some degree of mysticism and new age ideas - which is to be expected, given its setting. For the most part, these elements were incorporated into the plot in a way I was willing to accept for the sake of the story, but I did find the repeated, overly-detailed descriptions of the main character's use of "sound healing" to be heavy-handed and unnecessary.

The plot itself was intriguing: a young girl, Callie, witnesses the murder of her mother and two other young women, but the murder is never solved. Some years later, another murder occurs which may somehow be connected to the earlier case, and the now-grown Callie tries to dig back into her memory and her subconscious to provide some details that could help find the killer.

The author does a credible job of jumping back and forth between the present and the past as Callie slowly remembers bits and pieces of the night of the murder. She doles out subtle clues as we explore the often tangled relationships of the various townspeople and gives hints as to who might have a motive for the murders. I found the various plot twists to be somewhat on the "soap opera" side, but if you don't mind some larger-than-life drama, this book may be to your taste.

The bottom line is that this was a fun and fluffy bit of reading that will be enjoyable especially to those interested in new age ideas and the occult, but still tolerable to those who prefer a bit more realism.

I received this book for review from Blogging for Books. For more information about The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry, please see the Penguin Random House website.