“Sometimes the only healing is death.” (Part Three: Chapter Forty-Six)
Description: 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?
I have always been fascinated by witches and stories based on all of the witch-related occurrences in Salem, Massachusetts in the last 1600s so I immediately wanted to read “The Fifth Petal” by Brunonia Barry.
The novel starts by depicting the events directly after the gruesome “Goddess Murders” of 1989 in which a couple of nuns found a child – Callie – the only survivor hiding in overgrown shrubbery in the woods. Flash forward to 2014, the unsolved massacre still looms over the town.
Rose Whelan, a renown scholar and expert on Salem’s history, had been present that fateful night and subsequently went “crazy,” becoming a homeless, town loon wandering the streets, talking to trees. When Rose is present/involved in the death of a young bully in 2014, the townspeople are ready to crucify her for the murder regardless of evidence and Sheriff Rafferty is faced with uncovering the hidden secrets of the “Goddess Murders” in order to determine Rose’s fate.
One of the things that most disturbed me was how quickly and easily the 1989-era police force dropped the investigation and hid evidence. I understand why they were nervous considering their own involvement, but it just goes to show the power that law enforcement holds.
Marta was one of the most interesting characters with a deep-rooted history in Salem and who’s family intertwined heavily with the other families, but she did not appear much throughout the first half of the novel. Her decades-long affair with Finn fueled so much of the story’s narrative, and I wish we as readers had more insight into their relationship and Marta’s complex personality.
I will admit that I was very skeptical reading this novel because while I love witch tales, I don’t really know if I believe in all of the supernatural that was tied into this story, but I loved how Brunonia Barry tied in all of the supernatural witchcraft with realistic actions and motivations.
Another favorite line that really encompasses the spirit of this book: “there seemed to be things just below the surface of life itself, revealing themselves only at odd moments or when accidentally or intentionally disturbed,” (Part Three: Chapter Forty).
Brunonia Barry is the New York Times and international bestselling author of THE LACE READER, THE MAP OF TRUE PLACES, and THE FIFTH PETAL, which will be released in January 2017. 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, a People Magazine Pick, and Amazon’s Best of the Month. Her reviews and articles on writing have appeared in The London Times, The Washington Post, and The Huffington Post. She is a regular contributor to Writer Unboxed. Brunonia chairs the Salem Athenaeum’s Writers’ Committee and serves on Grub Street’s Development Committee. She is the Executive Director of the Salem Lit Fest, an annual event that brings people to Salem, MA from all over the world. She lives in Salem with her husband, Gary, and their dog, Angel.