Heat Wave by Richard Castle: B

From the front flap:
A New York real estate tycoon plunges to his death on a Manhattan sidewalk. A trophy wife with a past survives a narrow escape from a brazen attack. Mobsters and moguls with no shortage of reasons to kill trot out their alibis. And then, in the suffocating grip of a record heat wave, comes another shocking murder and a sharp turn in a tense journey into the dirty little secrets of the wealthy. Secrets that prove to be fatal. Secrets that lay hidden in the dark until one NYPD detective shines a light.
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J’s Take on Heat Wave by Richard Castle

Well, what to make of this book. Heat Wave is written by fictional character, Richard Castle, from the television show, Castle. That’s not even quite the weird part. The book is also pretty much an episode of the television show, just with all the characters slightly changed. Any real author basing a novel so much on real life is likely going to be in a load of trouble with his family and friends.

Let’s.. take this in chunks:

The Writing

I had trouble getting into this book at first. As in, I had trouble at a very basic level in comprehension. It was making my brain hurt. Somewhere along the line, it got easier. I’m inclined to say that the writing got better, but it could simply be that I got used to it. I’m not quite sure, but I do have some examples, and the examples are from early on.

Metaphors and other bits of language that make you stop. And yea, they make you think, and yea, they can be a bit humorous. But they also make you stop. It interrupts the flow.

Page 1: “the tourists were […] seeking refuge in Starbucks over iced drinks ending in vowels.”
Page 3: “Rook had curled his hands to form skin binoculars”
Page 32: “what looked to her like an escalator to the basement painted red” — to describe a graph

Character name switches. She’s Nikki Heat. She’s Heat. She’s Detective Heat. She’s ‘the detective’. Just when you think the author(s) has finalized on Heat and is going to stick with it, out comes another Nikki Heat or just Nikki. And of course it happens with other characters as well. Sometimes trying to give us information by doing it, like ‘her friend’. As if we couldn’t gather that by context.

Number problems. It happened more than once. Here’s one from page 15: “Two thousand six scrape with a bouncer in SoHo; 2008, you pushed a guy […]” Did some style rulebook tell you not to start a sentence with a number? Because it’s just plain silly to say 2006 and 2008 in two different ways. Plus just silly to give a year that way in the first place.

Maybe an editor should’ve caught that? problems — page 33

“I see,” he said. And then he took the plunge. “Matthew Starr indulged some personal habits that compromised his personal fortune. He did damage.” Noah paused then took the plunge.

At one point, I had trouble following who was speaking, but looking back through, I can’t find where that was.

There were also times where something was mentioned and I had to try to remember what it was referring to. Specifically the ‘perfume ad’. If you weren’t paying attention the first time Heat’s internal monologue came up with that, you were lost. And since I was already overwhelmed with metaphors and odd little references, I did miss that the first time.

The whole feel of it, especially the dialogue, was quite like the show. If you’re not paying attention, you’re going to miss a quip. Even if you are paying attention, you’ll probably miss some quips. Or my geek repetoire is not geeky enough in the right directions (music, old movies, etc) to get everything.

The Characters

So instead of Castle, the bestselling novelist, we have Rook, the Pulitzer prize-winning journalist. Who is somehow also fabulously rich. And instead of whatever her name is, the detective on the show, we have Nikki Heat. Who you can reasonably read into as Castle’s impression of who the detective on the show is, whatever her name is. And other characters map as well, including 2 detectives or cops or whatever who do the girl detective’s bidding, but competently. Unlike some shows.

And, inexplicably, Castle/Rook’s mother, the diva. She shows up briefly in one scene, and her appearance was utterly pointless.

The characters are so like the television show, that I was brought up short every time we were reminded that Rook is a journalist. I guess he didn’t fit my image of a journalist. Wise-cracking, risk-taking, devil may care journalist? And, again, rich?

A book written by Castle?

Well, I can sort of see it. At first, I was reading it in my head in Nathan Fillion’s Castle voice, though eventually that dropped off. And yea, you can totally see a guy like him writing a hot detective chick parading around her apartment naked and then kicking butt in that state.

But then I think.. well, a real novelist.. well, a) wouldn’t map his life so closely like that, and b) should know his main character better. That is, I never really felt like I was inhabiting Nikki Heat. So I never felt like the author was either. But I guess that isn’t necessarily indicative of ‘not a real author’, but more of ‘not a very good author’.

Whoa, trippy man

The quote from the back of the book: “Rick Castle must have been doing his research because Nikki Heat has the unmistakable ring of truth.” — It actually got me thinking.. how many things on the show do we see Castle learning about that made it into the book? And I don’t know the answer to that, because I wasn’t paying close enough attention to the first season of Castle. Are there clever little things like that?


Interesting to read for what it is, though if it wasn’t what it is, I wouldn’t have read it. And if I had read it, I would’ve put it down. Because I would’ve found it rather dull. Reading all these mysteries is just confirming to me that I’m not particularly fond of them. (Ignoring that I did go through a stage in my youth of reading most of Sherlock Holmes.)

The acknowledgements deserve acknowledgement for being interesting and a bit amusing.

I’m giving the book a rather solid 3 (out of 5). An overall impression of ‘meh’, yet the compulsion to want to buy a copy and mark it up in red ink to figure out why I had such problems with its language.


Heat Wave (Richard Castle)

The Plot
NYPD Detective Nikki Heat has two problems: a dead Donald Trump clone whose murder she has to solve, and a journalist who’s tagging around with her while she does it. Plus, it’s really hot out.

My Thoughts
So here we have a somewhat average modern-day mystery-thriller. I’m not exactly a connoisseur of these sorts of books; I much prefer the type of mystery that is generally referred to as ‘cozy’ or (more accurately) ‘puzzle’. I’m not entirely sure where the cozy is meant to be — murder is not exactly warm and fuzzy even if Jessica Fletcher is the one investigating.

It’s short, hardly worth the cover price at a mere 197 pages. It has a few elements of a caper/humorous sort of mystery (a la Stephanie Plum) but it wants to be more hardcore than that. And if that were all this was, then Heat Wave would be pretty readily dismissible, an okay book in a crowded genre, devoured by a few and just as quickly forgotten.

But Heat Wave has a slightly more interesting pedigree: its author, Richard Castle, is himself a fictional character on the television show Castle. So it must be evaluated on this second level as well, as an offshoot of the fictional New York City established in the Castle universe.

For anyone unfamiliar with the television series, the premise is that the best-selling author Richard Castle, friends with the mayor of New York, wants to start writing a new series starring a female detective as his lead character. Through his friendship with the mayor he is given the privilege of tagging around with a NYPD detective. A hot female detective. His new character will be based upon her. Their relationship is defined by banter, some of it friendly, some of it not so friendly, some of it flirty, some of it not so flirty. He uses his authorial contacts and imagination to help her fight crime, she puts up with him and the fact that he bestowed upon his new character the porn-star name Nikki Heat.

Looking at the book as if one is living in the Castle-verse, there is more of interest: not so much the plot, but the subtext. Though Castle and Beckett are not romantically involved on the show (and one hopes the writers are smart enough to avoid allowing this to happen in the future), Castle’s self-insert book character, Jameson Rook (ha ha), manages to do some self-inserting with Nikki well before the mystery wraps up. Does this mean Castle secretly (or not so secretly) wants Beckett? Is he just showing her what she’s missing out on? Is it all a big fake out? Who knows. But it’s this sort of meta-pondering that made the book interesting and not the fairly tired plot. (I mean, come on — the identity of the ultimate criminal was a cliche. It could hardly have been more obvious.)

In Short
For fans of the television series Castle, this book is really a must read. It adds a new depth to the characters (Richard’s especially) and raises questions which can now be examined on the show now that it’s received a full second season order. For fans of mystery-thrillers, eh. By no means is this bad; it’s a decent representative of its type — but it is also very short. I don’t know if there are plans to continue the Nikki Heat series in the real world (in the Castle world more books have been contracted for), but unless one is watching the show I’m not sure it would be worth getting invested in the characters for a mere 200 pages.