Castle Book Review: Heat Wave

“We all try. And try as we might to control things, sometimes bad things get in and it’s not our fault.”

Heat is one of those words that is difficult, at best, to define as it can mean a myriad of different things. In his new novel, based on his experiences following NYPD detective Kate Beckett around the streets of New York, Richard Castle manages to incorporate a few of the those definitions.

The first, and most obvious, definition is “the state or quality of being hot.” Castle sets this novel at the height of summer during which New York City is suffering through an intense heat wave. Having lived in Manhattan for over a decade, I can attest to just how awful New York heat waves are. The oppressive heat and humidity make everyone crazy and impatient. Castle uses this atmosphere to increase the tension as the mystery unfolds.

A real estate tycoon has plunged to his death. Nikki Heat, Castle’s latest character and an NYPD detective (the police being another definition of heat), is sent to investigate. As if the heat wave and the murder of such a prominent figure were not enough, the police commissioner has assigned her a ride-along. Jameson Rook, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, is researching an article about the NYPD. He wastes no time in putting himself into the middle of the investigation.

For those who know the people on whom this story is based, there is a lot to recognize. Nikki is smart. beautiful, and a wise-ass. She is assisted in all her investigations by two junior detectives, Raley and Ochoa. The medical examiner is Nikki’s best friend, Lauren Parry. Their boss is Captain Montrose.

As the writer gets to control the story, Jameson is exactly the person Castle would like to be. And, to be fair, is to a degree. Jameson knows everyone and has contacts in all levels of the New York social strata. He is famous; he has women falling at his feet; he is quick with a pun or any play on words; he is able to see beyond the story that Nikki and he is being told. What is revealing is the major difference between the two: Castle writes fiction; Jameson is a journalist, famous for writing pieces that expose the truth to the world.

Jameson is “ruggedly handsome” and a handful. All of which, of course, leads us to the second definition of heat, “intensity of feeling or passion.” The sparks fly between Jameson and Nikki instantly and, as we were promised, things heat up (of course they do) on page 105. While it is not the most graphic sex scene ever written, it is quite something.

While the mystery is fun and kept me guessing for a while, the reason to read this novel is to see the fictionalized accounts of events we have already witnessed. In “Home is Where the Heart Stops,” we saw a very funny scene in which Ryan and Esposito list all the things they call a suspect. That scene shows up in the book, but the words used are a bit more on the nose. There are several throw-away lines, taken directly from the show. Nikki drinks the same coffee Beckett does.

This novel is not great literature by any means. The writing can be forced and the mystery is fairly mundane. What makes it fun are all the allusions to the show. If you are a fan, give this novel a try. But, temper your expectations. Castle isn’t as great a writer as we have been led to believe.

ChrisB is a freelance writer who spends more time than she ought in front of a television screen or with a book in her hand.

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