⭐Hays, Katy. The Cloisters. November. 320p. Atria.
A wonderfully dark novel rich in characterization. After Ann Stillwell graduates from college, she doesn’t waste a minute more in Walla Walla, WA, and heads to New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met), where she has secured a summer position as curatorial associate. But there’s a mix up, and Ann ends up at the Cloisters, the Met’s museum and garden devoted to medieval art, located at the remote northern tip of Manhattan. Here she ends up working with Rachel Mondray, who is everything Ann isn’t: Yale educated, Harvard bound, immensely wealthy. Will they be friends, enemies, or frenemies? Friends, it turns out, providing they stick to Rachel’s terms. Under the tutelage of Patrick, the curator-in-charge, they research early Renaissance tarot cards in preparation for an upcoming exhibit. But the cards aren’t just visually beguiling. They are powerful in ways that go well beyond art history, capable of inspiring evil today. Hays does a wonderful job of opening up the lives of both Ann and Rachel, who forge an alliance—like the contestants in a Survivor-like TV show—that will see them safely through the summer. Or will it? Fans of Shapiro’s The Art Forger, Perez-Reverte’s The Flanders Panel and Santlofer’s The Last Mona Lisa will love this book.—Brian Kenney