New York City is in the grip of a heat wave, and Detective Nicki Heat is in the grip of a stubborn case. Real estate mogul Matthew Starr was pitched from his balcony, and the only suspects either have alibis or could not have accessed his apartment at the time of the murder. The case gets more complicated when a second body enters the mix along with a multi-million dollar art theft. And, as if things weren’t complicated enough, Detective Heat has a ride-along with her on this case: Pulitzer-winning journalist Jameson Rook….
Heat Wave is a media tie-in to ABC’s Castle, which stars Nathan Fillion as mystery writer Rick Castle, who is following around Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic)—his inspiration for the character Nicki Heat. It is not a written version of the show but rather the book that Castle wrote after the first 12 cases he worked with Beckett (AKA, Season 1). I have never read something like this tie-in before; hell, I’m not sure I’ve even seen something like it before, and I find it fascinating that ABC saw something in the show’s demographic that caused them to produce this novel. It is a perfect complement to the show: every detail that is references on screen is reproduced on the pages, from the dedication to the sex scene being on page 104 to the hilarious photo of Fillion as Castle on the back.
All of the characters read exactly like the actors on the show—except, oddly enough, Rook. I’m not sure if this was simply my being too embarrassed for Castle to put him into the pages of a book that is half-fantasy and half-wish-fulfillment exercise for him, or if Castle was too embarrassed to put himself into those pages.
It wasn’t sharp enough for me to put my finger on why he didn’t seem as much like Castle as the others seemed like their counterparts, but he didn’t. But, boy was Castle not kidding when he called Beckett his inspiration. Like he didn’t even try to change her personality or habits, and her past was only different enough not to get him sued. Same with his grand dame of NY theater mother, same with the female ME who is friends with Nicki off duty, same with the two detectives she works with, Raley and Ochoa (Ryan and Espesito on the show, who I refer to as the Ambiguously Gay Duo) whom Castle dubbed “Roach”—apparently even he thinks they’re secretly in love. So for me it was really easy to imagine the characters and hear their voices, despite a dearth of descriptions about them in the text.
The book was subtly funny, most of it going back to knowing the show and/or knowing Castle. Like, Heat notices Rook’s mother drinking Jameson and concludes that she named him after her favorite liquor. He named himself after effing Jameson whiskey. That’s marvelous.
It was also interesting to see how Castle synthesized various elements of the cases he worked with Beckett to make one master mystery out of them. Like the guy thrown off his balcony was separate from the suspicious nanny episode(s) was separate from the art theft episode. Reading this actually made me want to go back and re-watch Season 1. But it was also a good mystery. Even more multi-layered and complicated than the ones Castle and Beckett and the AGD solve in 45 minutes, but very much in the same style. Suspicion twists around to several different people as they follow the leads, and it all fits together at the end, with more action (in a couple different senses) in between.
Regarding the additional action, part of it is that Detective Heat is stalked and then attacked by one of the most likely suspects. I loved that section. It was tense and terrifying—I honestly didn’t know whether Castle was going to go full dark and have her actually get raped or not—and seeing Heat claw her way out of the situation was great.
The fight was realistically empowering for her as a female character, and it proved, in a way, how much strength and quick wits Castle sees in Beckett. Somehow the protective feelings Rook experienced in the aftermath spoke more of Castle than the scene where Rook and Heat fall into bed together. Which, by the way, was nowhere near as “hot” or “steamy,” or whatever word Castle used, as he claimed. I mean, maybe for mysteries it was, but not really by my standards…although I’m not complaining about that, because if I wanted a sex book I’d go visit the romance section.
So, how to bottom-line this one? If you are a fan of Castle, go get this book. You will love it. If you are a mystery reader…um…I think you’d like it, if you tend to read detective novels. The writing is easy to read and engaging, the story moves quickly, the mystery is multi-layered. It might walk the line of being campy, but I don’t really read mysteries so maybe it’s right in line with what most of them are.
I have no frame of reference. For non-Castle fans, I’d suggest that if you like the premise of the mystery, then you should go read the first chapter on ABC’s website and decide based on that. For me, this was a great read, and I hope that they write any sequels Castle hammers out in the show’s universe.
This is the second book from ABC’s fictional crime author Richard Castle, and I think it did a better job than the first one of separating itself from the show and simply existing as a mystery novel. If you watch the show, you know it’s the book Castle wrote after the cases he helped on in Season 2; if you don’t, all you need to know is that it’s the second book in the series, following last year’s Heat Wave.
Unlike the first Nikki Heat book, the title on this one had little to do with what actually happens in the book; the naked part is really just Castle/his publisher being deliberately provocative. The story this time around is focused on the murder of a gossip columnist whom every celebrity in New York might have had a reason to want dead. Where to start? And detective Nikki Heat has an added complication to an already complicated crime: reporter Jameson Rook, who just so happened to be profiling the gossip queen and insists he can offer the team insights into the woman’s life and writing. With no leads and every news outlet in town watching the case, Heat has no choice but to put aside the fact that Rook ruined her professional anonymity…and ignore the attraction that never really burned out even after they broke up.
This time around, it’s Nikki Heat who really comes into her own as a character. When I read Heat Wave, it seemed to me that every character except Jameson Rook read exactly as they are played on the TV series. In some ways that was amusing, but in others it made me question (1) Castle’s abilities as a writer, if he couldn’t re-characterize better than that and (2) whether I was enjoying the book because it was good or because it was like watching an episode of my favorite mystery show. In Naked Heat Nikki did not read, at least to me, like a fictional copy of Beckett. She is starting to fill out on the page and evolve away from her inspiration as the little details and ticks and reveals about her mind and her past slowly add up. One thing I felt was handled especially well is Nikki’s playfulness; she’s looser about it than Beckett is, and so she’s starting to be a “fun” character for the readers–when Castle talked about her being fun, before this book came out, it seemed like he was substituting fun for “easy to write.” Not so any longer!
The mystery was not that hard to predict, but in this case I wouldn’t hold that as a flaw due to the nature of the case. We live in a culture that loves a good scandal, and so just like all the people who read tabloids we wanted to keep reading to see just what had happened–even when we guessed, we still wanted to know all the sordid details.
I think this book was also a bit more grisly than the first, which was an interesting thing to lay against the fact that it was in some ways more playful. It had a good balance of dark moments and lighter ones, and was, on the whole, I think a more satisfying book than the first one. As before, I have to give the caveat that I do not read straight mystery books, so I can’t judge this one against the fictional Castle’s real-world peers (and poker buddies) like James Patterson or Stephen Connell. But for a casual mystery reader or a fan of the show, it’s a must. Can’t wait to read the third book that will be written after the current season finishes up!
Elena Nola is the imperial movie critic and the colder half of the Ladies of Ice and Fire.