cover image The Cloisters

The Cloisters

Katy Hays. Atria, $28 (312p) ISBN 978-1-66800-440-1

Hays debuts with a moody and suspenseful story of a floundering art history graduate. Though Ann Stillwell has been unsuccessful in pursuing a grad school offer, she nevertheless lands a coveted summer internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art—but upon arrival, she learns the offer has been rescinded. Ann then hears of a vacancy at the Cloisters, where she joins the beautiful and supremely competent Rachel Mondray in assisting head curator Patrick Roland on a research project related to the tarot, which, according to Patrick’s hypothesis, has much older ties to the occult than scholars had previously assumed. Ann is dazzled by Rachel’s wealth, and a quick, intense friendship develops as she is drawn into the research, though she’s increasingly unnerved by Patrick’s fervor and seeming belief in the occult. Hays carefully leaves the supernatural elements open to interpretation, and Ann’s summer is ultimately shaped by a tragedy with a traceably human cause. Readers will be fascinated by the evocative setting as well as the behind-the-scenes glimpses into museum curatorship and the cutthroat games of academia. It makes for an accomplished debut. Agent: Sarah Phair, Sanford J. Greenburger Assoc. (Nov.)