“The Lace Reader,” by Brunonia Barry; William Morrow; $24.95

Novelist Brunonia Barry has pulled off a major feat with her debut, “The Lace Reader.” It’s a gorgeously written literary novel that’s also a doozy of a thriller, capped with a jaw-dropping denouement that will leave even the most careful reader gasping.

Even before the book started making the rounds of critics, Barry had produced major buzz. “The Lace Reader,” originally self-published in 2007, was picked up by William Morrow in a reported $2 million deal for it and one future novel.

Thankfully, Barry’s talent seems worth the hype.

She intriguingly sets up the story with the opening lines: “My name is Towner Whitney. No, that’s not exactly true. My real first name is Sophya. Never believe me. I lie all the time. I am a crazy woman. … That last part is true.”

The author sets “The Lace Reader” amid the supernaturally fraught environs of Salem, Mass., where, as the book wittily points out, there were no witches in the 1600s, but there certainly are now. Every other shop deals in charms and potions, and the city council debates putting a limitation on the number of haunted houses that can be erected per block during the Halloween season.

As the book opens, Towner, the book’s protagonist, is returning home to Salem and fictional Yellow Dog Island after the disappearance of her Great Aunt Eva, possibly due to foul play. Towner is descended from a long line of psychics who use Ipswich lace to foretell one’s future.

Towner refuses to use the gift and had vowed not to return to Salem after the drowning death of her twin sister, Lyndley. She can’t dodge familial obligations once she learns Eva is missing, however. And once she’s ensconced in Eva’s house, Towner’s psychic abilities crop up with or without her permission, lace or no.

Barry charmingly incorporates the supernatural elements, sprinkling bits of Eva’s journal, titled “The Lace Reader’s Guide,” throughout. But although the book is steeped in the paranormal, it’s really much more about the relationships in Towner’s family.

She also weaves into the pattern the bubbling tensions between Salem’s Wiccans and the “Calvinists,” a Branch Davidian-like group founded by Cal, the abusive, supposedly reformed ex-husband of another of Towner’s aunts.

At one point in the book, Eva quotes Don Quixote: “Facts are the enemy of truth.” That would serve quite well as a summation of “The Lace Reader.”

We see the truth from several points of view, fragments of supposed facts unraveling like Eva’s lace, and some of the edges are left intentionally frayed: Not every mystery is entirely cleared up.

Barry left this reader wanting to start over immediately, just to see what clever clues I must’ve missed along the way.

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