- Megan Bingham
It will have blood, they say: blood will have blood.
Stones have been known to move, and trees to speak . . .
William Shakespeare, Macbeth
Salem, Massachusetts, is already a town filled with rich and terrible history. But, little does anyone know, for 28 years a notorious cold case has haunted Salem's residents more than the infamous 1692 witch trials.
Halloween night, 1989. Three young women go to Proctor's Ledge. They are accompanied by well-respected town historian Rose Whelan and one of the women's five-year-old daughter, Callie. The young ladies had purposefully come to Salem to research their descendance from the accused Salem witches, and Rose had taken them under her wing. Rose and the women believe that Proctor's Ledge was the location of the execution of 19 accused witches, not Gallows Hill, as everyone had assumed. The purpose of their trip was to perform a consecration ceremony—although there would later be many rumors involving a satanic ritual. They believed the blessing would put the souls of the falsely accused individuals to rest.
But, what was supposed to be simple turned into a nightmare. The town dubbed the horrific event "The Goddess Murders." After the three women were brutally slain by an unknown force, Rose lost her mind and was accused of the murders—although never convicted—while little Callie was left orphaned. Rose claimed it was an ancient evil that had awakened within the hanging tree on Proctor's Ledge: a banshee—but not the sobbing, screaming banshees in Irish folklore that appear to hearald a death . . . but a banshee who's scream is so shrill, so bloodcurdling, that it can kill you.
Present day. Chief of Police John Rafferty (and husband to the protagonist Towner Whitney in Barry's The Lace Reader) is enjoying a semi-quiet Halloween night until a teenage boy dies suspiciously in the presence of Rose Whelan. The two boys who had been with the victim explain that something came out of Rose's mouth that killed their friend. Something Rose has claimed she has kept inside her since that fateful night in 1989. Unfortunately, Rose cannot be questioned because she has fallen into a dream-like state, lashing out violently at anyone who gets near her. Chief Rafferty isn't sure what to do. It is almost as if Rose has been possessed.
When the now 28-year-old Callie catches a news story on Rose's arrest, memories from that dreaded October night come rushing back. The nuns at the school she attended told her Rose was dead—she had been killed with her mother and the others. How can this be? The imprint of the five-petal rosary that she squeezed in her hand the night of the attack, begins to burn. With this dreaded warning, Callie knows she must return to Salem to figure out what really happened that night. Was it a supernatural being who killed her mother and friends? Will evil rise again? Callie joins forces with Chief Rafferty and Towner as they dive right into the mystery that has haunted Salem for way too long.
The Fifth Petal returns to the world of Barry's bestselling title The Lace Reader. Author Brunonia Barry spent five years writing The Fifth Petal, researching the history of Salem extensively, and ended up with a spellbinding, time-bending mystery. Interestingly, Barry is embracing the notion that the subject of magic is not always a force of darkness, but instead, a force of nature. Reviewer Jeanette Bouchie in The Book Beat* summarizes a key point of the novel: "...women who wield any kind of power, supernatural or otherwise, are misunderstood or feared. Women who don't possess it are resigned to lives beyond their control. The Fifth Petal is an imaginative and haunting book that appeals to [these] emotions, the senses, and the intellect." Sound intriguing? Read Barry's entire supernatural series set in Salem, Massachusetts.