Salem, witches, a banshee, and mass fear. Sounds like the making for a Halloween spectacular, but it’s the basic elements found in The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry.
An attempt to consecrate the ground where their ancestors were hanged as witches, a group of women, known locally as the Goddesses, were killed, leaving five-year old Callie alive but without a mother and local historian Rose mentally unstable and accused as the women’s murderer. 25 years later, Rose, homeless and perceived as crazy, is seeking out the tree where the accused witches were hung in 1692. When a teenage boy is killed, Rose is seen as the prime suspect after claiming a banshee she was keeping from reeking havoc did it, thus bringing Callie back to Salem for the first time since 1989 to reunite with Rose. Investigating the murders from 25 years ago, Sheriff Rafferty helps to try and bring closure for Callie, but are they going to find human or otherworldly causes?
A captivating story that is definitely a good fall read brings together plenty of historical facts about Salem and the Puritan’s fear of witches with a contemporary murder mystery. I read this novel not realizing that it’s the second in a series and it’s well-written and self-contained such that you don’t need to have read the previous book to understand this one. While the plot moves a bit slowly, the writing style delves into many details to build the atmosphere and scene, as well as develop the characters, which offered a completeness to the narrative and more deeply explicates the question of why certain actions were taken.
Overall, I’d give it a 4 out of 5 stars.