Castle Book Review: A Brewing Storm

“After all, if there was anything he hated, it was unfinished business.”

Derrick Storm is dead. He was killed by his creator, Richard Castle, four years ago in a book called Storm Fall. Castle was not allowed to have his hero die in peace; everyone from his competitors to his publisher and most of his fans bemoaned the killing and wondered if Castle had lost his mind. But, Storm was laid to rest and Nikki Heat was born.

So, imagine my surprise when I received an email from Amazon that three Derrick Storm novels were going to be published over the course of the summer. A bit skeptical about it, I realized that if Sir Arthur can bring back Mr. Holmes from the dead, I guess Rick Castle can bring back Mr. Storm. There is no mention in the show that Castle is reviving this character, but there is a (very funny) deleted scene that does. “Magical, godlike powers” indeed.

The book opens with Storm fly-fishing in Montana as a huge helicopter descends nearly on top of him. A man gets out, shouts that “Jedidiah (I know -- more on the names later) is calling in Tangiers” and we are off. By page three, we have learned that Storm faked his own death to escape the clutches of the CIA, that he has successfully hidden from the world for the past four years and that the favor he owes Jedidiah Jones, Tangiers, is so huge it will bring him back into the world.

Storm leaves his peaceful life in Montana and flies to Washington D.C. to meet Jones, who needs his help solving the kidnapping of a senator’s stepson. The case proceeds at a brisk clip, event after event happening almost without time to catch a breath. A lot of it is pure male fantasy, but the case is entertaining and engaging.

Castle certainly had some fun in coming up with his characters’ names. As the last time we saw Storm was in a graphic novel, these names seem taken right from a comic book -- April Showers, Thurston Windslow, Jedidiah Jones, Samantha Toppers (who is so top heavy, she is an “architectural marvel”) and Matthew Dull. Only Storm’s pseudonym, Steve Mason, seems at all realistic.

The characters are all a touch stereotypical as well. Storm is the hero, in every sense of the word. He is street smart; he dresses impeccably; he shoots straight. Storm is a tough guy, macho, street smart as opposed to cerebral. A man of few words, but an overactive internal dialogue. He appears to spend vast amounts of his time thinking about his next Jack Daniels and when and where he will next get laid. A man’s man, or at least the kind of man Castle fantasized about being when we first met him.

Jedidiah Jones is the father figure to whom Storm owes a great deal and whom he respects a great deal. Storm mentions more than once that Jones is the only man he trusts. Thurston Windslow is a senator from Texas and he is about what you would expect -- married to a woman half his age, gruff and the most powerful man on the Hill. We have the beautiful, perfect wife and the young fiancee.

Like all of Castle’s books, we need the romantic tension. In this case, Storm is working with an FBI agent called April Showers. Described as having “porcelain white skin and … red hair,” she sounds an awful lot like FBI Agent Jordan Shaw of "Tick, Tick, Tick" and "Boom." Their first meeting reminded me of Castle’s first meeting with Beckett. Storm is intrigued by Showers and makes no secret of the fact that he wants to sleep with her. In fact, Storm makes so many sexual innuendos in their conversations that it becomes all a bit too much, entirely inappropriate for a working relationship. In fact, as the innuendos continued, I found myself wondering what woman in her right mind would ever fall for this crap? Probably not the response Castle is looking for in his hero. Also, I’m not sure about a couple called Storm and Showers -- that’s a bit much.

Another of the obstacles between the two is that Storm is still thinking about Clara Strike and comparing Showers to her (they even wear the same perfume). The love of Storm’s life, he had deeply mourned Strike’s death only to discover that she, too, had faked an accident so that she could disappear. She is alive and well somewhere (not D.C.), so we don’t meet her this time out. For viewers of the show, Clara Strike is a familiar name. Sophia Turner, the CIA agent in "Pandora" and "Linchpin," is the woman upon whom Castle based this character. In real life (or the Castle version of it), Castle worked with Turner for a year and they were lovers, a relationship that ended badly.

There are a couple of things about the book that are irksome. Storm has a very active internal life and his thoughts dominate a lot of the story. Which is fine, except that his thoughts are printed in italics. It’s distracting and I found it pulled me out of the story a bit.

The end is a bit forced. I saw the guilty party coming about halfway through, but as Storm is revealing who it is to the rest of the characters, his explanation comes completely out of left field. The few clues that were dropped were so heavily signposted that they were hard to miss; the others were made up right at the end. I always feel as though the author is cheating a bit when s/he does that.

Those two quibbles aside, however, A Brewing Storm is a fun, fast read and I enjoyed it. Although the kidnapping is more or less resolved at the end, the book ends with a lot of things not resolved and on a cliffhanger. This leads me to believe that the next two novels are, in fact, installments of this story. If you are a reader who needs an ending, I suggest you wait until August. If not, this book is perfect beach reading.

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.

No comments: