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. As 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 genre-blurring murder mystery/coming of age story ... Ann is constantly trying to figure out where she stands in the shifting and complicated dynamic. As readers, we’re kept compellingly off balance right along with Ann ... Hays’ atmospheric descriptions of the exhibits, the gardens and the interior spaces enhance the mysterious and menacing interactions among the characters.
Moody and suspenseful ... 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.
Hays sets the stage well for what might have been some truly creepy scenes, but those looking for chills should seek elsewhere. In the end, the plot and characters feel too formulaic and familiar to really surprise ... Murder! Occult! Obsession! The pieces are there, but the drama just…isn’t.