The Cloisters: A Novel (Hardcover)
November 2022 Indie Next List
“An atmospheric masterpiece! Ann Stillwell becomes increasingly obsessed with the occult after discovering a hidden 15th-century deck of tarot cards at The Cloisters. Hays creates a world so sinister that it is a character in itself.”
— Sharon Davis, Book Bound Bookstore, Blairsville, GA
INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A Today Show #ReadWithJenna Book Club Pick
“For fans of The Talented Mr. Ripley and The Secret History…The perfect mystery for fall.” —Jenna Bush Hager, Today
In this “sinister, jaw-dropping” (Sarah Penner, author of The Lost Apothecary) debut novel, a circle of researchers uncover a mysterious deck of tarot cards and shocking secrets in New York’s famed Met Cloisters.
When Ann Stilwell arrives in New York City, she expects to spend her summer working as a curatorial associate at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Instead, she finds herself assigned to The Cloisters, a gothic museum and garden renowned for its medieval art collection and its group of enigmatic researchers studying the history of divination.
Desperate to escape her painful past, Ann is happy to indulge the researchers’ more outlandish theories about the history of fortune telling. But what begins as academic curiosity quickly turns into obsession when Ann discovers a hidden 15th-century deck of tarot cards that might hold the key to predicting the future. When the dangerous game of power, seduction, and ambition at The Cloisters turns deadly, Ann becomes locked in a race for answers as the line between the arcane and the modern blurs.
A haunting and magical blend of genres, The Cloisters is a gripping debut that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
About the Author
Katy Hays is a writer and adjunct art history professor in California, where she teaches rural students from Truckee to Tecopa. She holds an MA in art history from Williams College and pursued her PhD at UC Berkeley. Having previously worked at major art institutions, including The Clark Art Institute and SF MoMA, she now lives with her husband and dog, Queso, in Olympic Valley, California. The Cloisters is her first novel.
“Claustrophobic . . . An underhanded antiques dealer, a sexy Cloisters gardener with a side hustle in poisonous plants, a suspicious death or two, a mysterious centuries-old document written in an obscure language, the sense that no one, not even Ann, is telling us the whole truth—all this adds up to a dense forest of a plot . . . Is this a story of the occult, or a story of ambition, or a tale of one (or more!) murderous psychopaths? The answer is a shock, and it sneaks up on you unawares.” —The New York Times
“A story of academic obsession, Renaissance magic and the ruthless pursuit of power. Captivating in every sense of the word.” —Sarah Pearse, New York Times bestselling author of The Sanatorium
“Sultry and sinister . . . Hays's debut teems with sexual tension, the secrets of divination, and scholarly obsessiveness. With a jaw-dropping twist at the end, The Cloisters serves as a warning to us all: we may think we know what life has in store, but fate and fortune tend to turn their own tricks." —Sarah Penner, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Apothecary
“A moody and suspenseful story . . . 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 . . . An accomplished debut.” —Publishers Weekly
“A tour de force by an important new voice, The Cloisters begins as a fish-out-of-water story. But as Katy Hays deftly weaves in layer after layer of the occult, art, and academia, it turns into a rich tapestry that speaks to issues of privilege, power, and ambition—and, more than anything, the darkness lurking just inside ivory towers. Virtuosic and incredibly compelling, The Cloisters grabbed me in a way that no book has done since The Secret History.” —Rachel Kapelke-Dale, author of The Ballerinas
“A tantalizingly clever tale, laced with surprises as devious as its cast of shadowy scholars, The Cloisters had me gripped from cover to cover. Hays’s debut is diabolical and darkly entertaining, a masterwork of literary suspense that surges to an otherworldly conclusion.” —Mark Prins, author of The Latinist
“Like the moment before a thunderstorm on a summer afternoon, The Cloisters is sultry, lush, and trembling with menace.” —Julia May Jonas, author of Vladimir
“Mesmerizing . . . A seductive unfurling of lies, envy, and the pull of the occult, The Cloisters does for tarot what The Secret History did for Greek class. This sharp, shadowy book held me in thrall from beginning to star-crossed end.” —Sara Sligar, author of Take Me Apart
“Prepare to lose your entire afternoon to The Cloisters, first for its atmosphere, a medieval museum at the tip of Manhattan, and then to pursuing a young scholar in her search for an ancient tarot deck, while keeping a sharp eye on the brilliant, attractive colleagues who may be out to help her or kill her. Good luck staying ahead of this one and have a great time poring over the many treasures inside.” —Maria Hummel, author of Reese’s Book Club Pick Still Lives
“A sharply smart, engaging debut exploring art, desire, ambition, and privilege set in the mysterious, opulent, famed Cloisters museum in Upper Manhattan, with dark surprises through its final pages. Hays’ smooth narration deftly conjures the complex, sexy webs between her characters . . . A fun, seductive, intelligent read.” —Nicola DeRobertis-Theye, author of The Vietri Project