Book Review: “The Fifth Petal” by Brunonia Barry

“The Fifth Petal” by Brunonia Barry (2017)

Genre: Mystery, Fiction, Thriller

Page Length: 448 pages (electronic review copy)


When a teenage boy dies suspiciously on Halloween night, Salem’s chief of police, John Rafferty wonders if there is a connection between his death and Salem’s most notorious cold case, a triple homicide dubbed “The Goddess Murders,” in which three young women, all descended from accused Salem witches, were slashed on Halloween night in 1989. He finds unexpected help in Callie Cahill, the daughter of one of the victims newly returned to town. Neither believes that the main suspect, Rose Whelan, respected local historian, 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? (description from Goodreads)


The Fifth Petal is a mystery thriller surrounding a murder. The book starts off where a murder has happened in modern-day Salem on Halloween. The accused is an older homeless woman named Rose. She claims she is was supernatural forces of an evil banshee that did it, making people thinks she’s not only crazy, but lying as well. Rose is connected to the goddesses murders of ’89 and the recent crime bears striking similarities. Who is telling the truth and who is lying?

Among the many key players in this novel the book mainly focuses on Rafferty, a skeptical cop and Callie, a woman who knew Rose at the time of the ’89 murders, and Rose who claims that evil spirits are at hand. The mystery slowly unravels as Callie moves back to Salem. She finds herself at home, but also feels that the city is foreign to her. Callie’s further investigation into the murders forces her to confront the past that she’s tried to leave behind in Salem. She’s also confronted with using her” gifts” as a therapist which may be something more as she meets other townsfolk that have otherworldly powers. Everyone in Salem has their secrets and some are more deadly than others.

As callie retraces the steps of the past and the accusations against rose things becomes more dangerous as she gets more answers. by being more in tune with her gifts she is able to seek out better clues.

The Fifth Petal starts out a bit slow, moves into a gradual pace, but still has a tendency to drag at times. I enjoyed the mystery aspects and how title of the book comes into play as the petals plays a strong role in a tie between the victims and their witch ancestors. As Callie retraces the steps of the past and the accusations against rose things become more dangerous as she gets more answers. This suspense keeps the reader on edge as the plot is full of many twists and turns.

I’m not sure how accurate the history in the book is but it was interesting to read about Salem’s history and I learned a lot of things. The plot builds up to a climactic ending that is satisfying and engrossing. All in all I liked this book. I felt it was well written, the characters are complex, and the mystery is one big puzzle. But I still thought the book was just “okay”. It wasn’t really what I am used to reading (which was fine), but it failed to grab my attention at times.

*This is the second book by the author that is set in Salem. It read like a standalone (to me), did not realize this was a series prior to Netgalley request.

Final Verdict:

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Leave a Reply