Art History in “Heat Wave” by Richard Castle

Want the book?  Click on the cover.

For those not familiar with TV series Castle, the Nikki Heat series comes from the title character’s series of books.

John Singer Sargent [Public domain]


This nice little escapist novel has two major bits of art history that shape the story and characters:  The murder of Matthew Starr and Detective Nikki Heat’s personality.  Castle (his ghost writer actually) characterized Matthew Starr, the murdered owner of an extensive private art collection, as having chaotic taste.  Indeed, from Northern Baroque to Futurism, Starr collected it all and turned his apartment into a mishmash of paintings and furniture that turns off everyone in the book.  On the Futurist reference, I felt completely bowled over when the book mentioned a Gino Severini painting and even described the material used on the canvas.  I only wish the author revealed the painting’s title so I can look it up myself.  On the collection itself, it works as a device for the story’s third act plot twists.

On Heat, she favors a John Singer Sargent painting called Carnation, Lilly, Lilly, Rose (seen at the top of this post) and Castle uses this artwork to humanize her otherwise hard personality.  As she attempts to solve the Starr mystery, Heat contemplates the two girls in the painting.  She even receives her own reproduction of the Sargent that will make a cameo appearance in the sequel Naked Heat.

Having watched the series, I enjoyed the first two books.  My only complaint came from the constant name dropping of celebrities made by other characters whom I won’t go into much detail because it has nothing with art history.

ETA: Revamped a link.

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