SALEM — Salem's rich and dark history draws thousands of visitors from far and wide each year.
Now, local tourism officials are hoping to lure sightseers who are intrigued by something new: a 383-page novel set in modern-day Salem, called "The Lace Reader," which hits bookstores nationwide today.
"I've really encouraged the businesses to market this," said Kate Fox, executive director of Destination Salem, the city's marketing organization. "It's a great book, a lot of fun, and a new angle for promoting Salem as a destination."
Authored by Salem resident Sandra Barry, whose pen name is Brunonia Barry, the novel has received a great deal of hype and favorable reviews from newspapers and magazines across the country.
So when the author approached her back in January, Fox said she pounced with alacrity on the opportunity to market Salem through "The Lace Reader," whose characters visit and pass by city landmarks like the Salem Common, Red's Sandwich Shop, the Salem ferry, Roger Conant's statue and First Church on Essex Street.
Fox has since worked with Barry's publisher and many local businesses to develop a "Lace Reader" walking map of Salem, tours, tour packages and even "Lace Reader" menu items.
"New Civilitea on Derby Street put 'Towner's difficultea' on the menu," named after the novel's protagonist, Towner Whitney, according to Fox.
"And at Historic Salem Pedi-cabs, he created a 'Lace Reader' tour," she said.
"The Lace Reader" is told through the eyes of Towner Whitney, the self-confessed unreliable narrator who hails from a family of Salem women who can read the future in the patterns in Ipswich lace. Towner rejects her ability to read lace until her beloved great aunt mysteriously disappears, beckoning Towner home to Salem to investigate.
A local shop, Artemisia Botanicals on Pickering Wharf, has capitalized on the notion of lace readings and will now offer customers the clairvoyant practice that Barry dreamed up for her novel.