Skip to main content

The Cloisters


The Cloisters

Fresh out of Whitman College, Ann Stilwell is ready to leave Walla Walla, a small town in eastern Washington. With a major as narrow as hers, it comes as no surprise that her applications are met with a host of rejection letters. So when an acceptance into the associates program at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City arrives, Ann couldn’t be more thrilled. But when she gets there, the offer has been withdrawn.

Leaving her far from home without a job, Ann is trying to figure out what to do when Patrick Roland from The Cloisters comes by and asks her to work for him. As an adjunct to the Museum, The Cloisters would give Ann the opportunity she desperately needs. Relieved, she settles in and gets to know the staff: Rachel, a beautiful, smart, confident woman who befriends her; Leo, The Cloisters’ gardener with more than botanical charms; and, of course, Patrick, her mentor and a man with an allure all his own. They deal mostly in antiquities, but their underlying focus is on tarot cards. Does Ann believe that the cards can read the future? Well, no. But frankly, she hasn’t thought much about it.

"Katy Hays shows fine mastery of her subject in her impressive debut novel.... [T]he mystery pushes it along at a great pace, racing to a wonderful surprise at the end."

That will soon change, though. When Ann comes in one day, she notices candle wax on some tables where they’re normally spotless. Another time, she overhears conversations that she’s sure she wasn’t supposed to hear. And at one point, Ann stays late, for reasons of her own, and walks in on Rachel and Patrick engaged in some private ritual. Rather than getting annoyed, they ask her to join in. As she learns more and begins to see the power that the cards hold, Ann’s doubts fade. But she also sees some troubling things going on among the staff.

While Leo has her intrigued and apparently she has him intrigued, she finds him to be an enigma. Despite her uncertainty, when he asks her to meet him one evening, she accepts and soon they become involved. But Leo is not a traditional sort of man. And for some reason, Rachel warns Ann away from him. Why? Rachel won’t say. Just be careful. For that matter, Ann has been warned about Rachel. What is going on here? She pushes aside any worry about it. She loves New York and her job, and enjoys the people with whom she works. So far, the cards haven’t told her anything bad enough to change that. Actually, the mystery surrounding it all rather excites her. After all, Ann has a secret of her own.

Then events turn dark. The Cloisters is beset by a scandal --- no, actually it’s worse than a mere scandal --- and the police become involved. Is Ann equipped to handle this? She’s just a girl from a hick town thrust onto the streets of New York. Now it’s time for her to step up or lose everything. She must overcome her past if she has any chance of moving forward.

Katy Hays shows fine mastery of her subject in her impressive debut novel. In fact, while reading THE CLOISTERS, I longed to know more about tarot. It would have made the story much richer and fuller, with more dimension. As it is, though, the mystery pushes it along at a great pace, racing to a wonderful surprise at the end.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on November 11, 2022

The Cloisters
by Katy Hays

  • Publication Date: July 11, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Literary, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • ISBN-10: 1668004410
  • ISBN-13: 9781668004418