Study Guide

Heist Society Analysis

  • What's Up With the Title?

    The title might seem pretty self-explanatory: girl forms a group of thieves, creates a heist society. Even though Kat and her crew don't refer to themselves as a "heist society," they could accurately do so, were they so inclined.

    However, Ally Carter's titles are always a little goofy, and they often contain puns. Check out these titles from her Gallagher Girls series: Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy and Don't Judge a Girl By Her Cover.

    So Heist Society is a clever little pun, too, this time on the phrase "high society": "a category of people deemed to have greater social status or prestige." Unless you somehow happen to be a jet-setting art thief, Kat and her family definitely fall into that category for you.

    However, Kat and co. got that way by hook or by crook. We have a feeling that they weren't always members of the "high society"—and really, they're still not, if you think about it. They have to keep their jobs and careers a secret.

    When all is said and done, the Bishops and their thieving friends are still kind of on the outside, fighting their way in. We guess the moral is: if you can't beat 'em, steal from 'em. (Um, no. We don't actually recommend that, sorry, Shmoopers.)

  • What's Up With the Ending?

    All's well that ends well, right? At the end of Heist Society, Kat and crew have pulled off the Henley heist. Paintings stolen by the Nazis in World War II have been returned to their owners. Taccone's in jail. Hale and Kat are back on good terms. Everyone's enjoying a nice Christmas dinner at Uncle Eddie's house. Everything is simply perfect.

    Well, not quite. There are still tons of unanswered questions in this book, which is perfect only for a book with a sequel. For example, Nick has been exposed as Interpol agent Amelia Bennett's son, and we have a feeling he and Kat haven't seen the last of each other. Plus, we still have no clue who Visily Romani is.

    And our most pressing question is: What's up with that painting, Girl Praying to Saint Nicholas, that Romani sends to Kat? What's the message there? We're guessing it's a threat against our girl Kat, telling her to stop thieving, or else. (See our "Symbols" Section for more on this painting.)

    In a book full of cliff-hanger endings, it's no surprise that the novel itself leaves us with a lot of mysteries. So here we are, hanging out at the cliff. And there's only thing we do know for sure: we better go buy that sequel.

  • Setting

    We See Austria, We See France...

    "Been Around the World and I-I-I, I Can't Find My Painting." 

    Kat goes all over the globe as she assembles her heist crew and tracks down clues about Taccone's stolen paintings. Taccone is in Italy. Simon is in Vegas. Hale's estate, and the Henley Museum, are in England. Mr. Stein, the art expert, is in Poland.

    You can practically see the dotted line being drawn from country-to-country as Kat jets around the world. It all makes us kind of dizzy, actually.

    In our opinions, not only all this globetrotting gives the Heist Society a worldly feel, while also letting us live vicariously in Kat's glamorous, thieving lifestyle. It's a fun ride. Oh, and all these exotic locations provide a whole host of filming options for the Heist Society movie.

    Smart, Ally Carter. Real smart.

    Musée des Beaux Arts? More Like Musée des Stolen Arts.

    The last few chapters of the book take place exclusively within the Henley, a fictional art museum that, if it existed, would give the Louvre a run for its money. With security measures out the wazoo, the Henley is the perfect place for an Ocean's Eleven art heist.

    Security cameras. Motion detectors. Vents that suck the oxygen out of a room. All that's missing are laser beams and Tom Cruise dangling from a wire. Are we right?

    Whether it's a high-tech casino, a bank vault, or the inside of someone's dreams, every heist needs a creative setting. And the Henley definitely fits the bill.

  • Tough-o-Meter

    (2) Sea Level

    Reading any book, even Ulysses would be easier than pulling off the heist Kat and her crew execute at the end of Heist Society. But reading about this heist is a breeze. Ally Carter writes in a fast-paced, fluid style. She fills her story with concise descriptions, snappy dialog, and cliff-hanger endings.

    So, it's no surprise this book is great movie matieral. You can read it with one hand holding the book and another deep inside a bowl of buttery popcorn. Just don't get imitation butter flavoring all over the pages if you checked it out from the library. They wouldn't appreciate that at all.

  • Writing Style


    Ally Carter's Pseudonym Should Be "Page Turner"

    Ally Carter pretty much wrote Heist Society to be a movie. You feel the tension as the time clicks by in between chapters: 6 Days Until Taccone's (Deadly) Deadline... 5 Days Until Taccone's (Deadly) Deadline...

    And every few pages, a mysterious voice says something mysterious, like, "Actually, it's just the beginning" (1.81), or "Hello, Katarina" (4.74). Lightning strikes, snow falls, church bells ring, and jets take off, too. So you have no choice but to follow Carter's characters on their grand adventures, or be left behind.

  • Weather

    Like a Bolt From the Blue 

    Heist Society is very cinematic in its use of weather effects. When Kat gets up the nerve to get into Taccone's fortress—through the front door, rather than via some elaborate heist trick—the author uses weather for great dramatic effect:

    "My name is Katarina Bishop." Lightning struck behind her. "I'm here to see Arturo Taccone." (8.79)

    And with that blast of electricity, the plot is pretty much set in motion. So, as in many movies since the beginning of time, bad weather symbolizes drama and foreboding in this novel.

  • Snow

    Snow Job

    There's a lot of snow at the end of the novel. It starts to build and build as the job comes together, especially as Kat has doubts about whether or not she can pull it off. On the morning of the heist, Kat notes, "something about the snow filled her with dread" (30.1).

    She has no reason to worry, though. The day warms up, the heist goes off with nary a hitch, and Kat emerges into "the fresh air. A clean start" (34.43). Another clear, beautiful day, perfect for planning the next heist.

    So what's the snow all about, then? We think the snow represents Kat's anxiety, and the increasing complications of the heist job. But just like our own worries, the snow dissipates once Kat's plans are realized.

  • Visily Romani

    All for One, One for All 

    Visily Romani is what Ally Carter, this book's author, calls a Chelovek Pseudonima. We googled it, binged it, and asked our retired gangster uncle about this phrase, but we think this is made-up. Man, that's a good phrase though, isn't it?

    It sounds all Russian and real. And Russians know real

    The main point of Visily Romani in Heist Society is that he's not a real person. Well, he is, but that's not his real name. And maybe he's not just one person, but many people. As Uncle Eddie says, "He is no one; he is everyone" (37.47).

    Allegedly these Chelovek Pseudominas are fake names (a.k.a. pseudonyms) that are passed down through generations of thieves. If you use one, you better be a master at your game. The thieving game is all about honor and respect, you see.

    Maybe we all have a bit of Visily Romani in us. We wouldn't be surprised if Kat ended up doing jobs under the name of Visily Romani one day. Like Kat, whoever is using Visily's name—Uncle Eddie? Kat's presumed-dead mother? Joaquin Phoenix?—has a conscience.

    So, we think Visily Romani symbolizes mystery, and morality's many shades of grey. He's kind of like the Robin Hood of the art thieving world—more legend than person, more concept than man (or woman).

    Girl Praying to Saint Nicholas

    Patron Saint of Stealing Stuff

    Out of all of the fictional paintings Kat recovers from the Henley, Girl Praying to Saint Nicholas is the one most chock-full of symbolic value. You could cut it with a knife. But please, if you ever discover that this thing is real, don't cut it with a knife. It could be worth a whole lot of money, kiddos.

    Girl Praying to Saint Nicholas
    is the one masterpiece not definitively attributed to a known master artist. Ally Carter, the author, often name-drops Vermeer or Rembrandt, but we're not given any answers. And that's not the only thing we don't know about this painting. The Girl Praying to Saint Nicholas could be a painting of anybody.

    Carter describes the painting's subject as "a girl with straight dark hair and a heart-shaped face, with a petite frame and a devout posture as she kneeled, praying to Nicholas, the patron saint of thieves" (37.54). Hm, sound familiar? This image kind of resembles our mental picture of Kat.

    So you could understand this painting to represent our girl Kat—mysterious, awesome, and changeable. Every time you think you understand her, she does something unexpected…

    A Message from Saints and Thieves

    This is the painting that Visily Romani takes from the Henley and delivers to Kat at the end of the book. It's meant to be a message, but what is the message? That Kat should pray to Saint Nicholas for help in getting all kinds of loot? Not so fast.

    It seems that Saint Nicholas "Induced some thieves to return their plunder. This explains his protection against theft and robbery, and his patronage of them—he's not helping them steal, but to repent and change."

    So we're guessing that Visily's message for that Kat is that she should give up her thieving ways. Wait, what? Why would some famous, unnamed thief recommend she give up thieving? Does he or she want Kat to repent for her own good, or just so there's less competition in the thieving world?

    These are questions that can't be answered in art history class. But it is clear to us that this painting can be understood to represent the art of thievery itself.