The Fifth Petal

The Fifth Petal

by Brunonia Barry


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Beloved author Brunonia Barry returns to the world of THE LACE READER with this spellbinding new thriller, a complex brew of suspense, seduction and murder.

When a teenage boy dies suspiciously on Halloween night, Salem's chief of police, John Rafferty, now married to gifted lace reader Towner Whitney, 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?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101905609
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 01/24/2017
Pages: 448
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.80(d)

About the Author

Brunonia Barry is the New York Times and international best selling author of The Lace Reader, The Map of True Places, and her latest book: The Fifth Petal. 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 Invitational Fellowship as well as the winner of New England Book Festival’s award for Best Fiction. Her reviews and articles on writing have appeared in the London Times and the Washington Post, and the Huffington Post. Brunonia co-chairs the Salem Athenaeum’s Writers’ Committee. She lives in Salem with her husband Gary Ward and their dog, Angel. Gary and Bru are the organizers of the Salem Literary Festival.

Read an Excerpt


Excerpted from "The Fifth Petal"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Brunonia Barry.
Excerpted by permission of Crown/Archetype.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

1. Contemporary Salem is a safe haven for neo-witches, greatly enhancing the city’s tourist trade, but there are many who want to “ditch the witch.” Could a modern day witch hunt happen in Salem again, and, if so, what might it look like? Are witch hunts happening in other parts of the world?
2. “You know who you are, you have always been other,” Rose says in her Book of Trees. In what way is each character in the book “other”?  Rose later claims every culture, and every individual, harbors a prejudice against those they consider “other”. Do you agree?
3. Callie longs for home and family, and particularly for a mother figure, having lost her own mother at a young age. How does Callie fulfill that dream, and at what cost?
4. Is the banshee a goddess or a monster? Its power seems to reside in a woman’s raised voice. How does that power manifest in the hands of the different characters?
5. At one point in the story, Rose tells Callie not to “court the strike.” What does she mean, and why is this important to the story?
6. Social media is both a resource and a curse in the novel. The wealth of available information helps Rafferty with his case, but the opinions of anonymous posters also condemn Rose, mirroring Salem’s accusers of 1692. Discuss the positive and negative impacts of social media.  
7. Brunonia Barry, who lives in Salem, is often surprised by the generational guilt the city still suffers for the 1692 witch hangings. In what ways does this manifest in the story?
8. Sound and vibration figure in The Fifth Petal, with a capacity to both hurt and heal. How does the banshee’s killer sound relate to vibration and music therapy? How does the music of the spheres that Callie hears during meditation relate to the ancient music heard in Matera?
9. Religion played a huge role in 1692 Salem, as did misogyny and fear of the unknown.  Discuss Rose’s quote: “Tell me what you want, and I’ll tell you who you think you are. Tell me what you fear, and I’ll tell you who you really are.”
10. Trees symbolize both the interconnectedness of all life and the roots of humanity in this story. How does the sacred oak help Rose, and what is the significance of the Tree of Life? What does it mean to Callie in her translation of Rose’s Book of Trees?

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