Review for Heat Wave, by Richard Castle

Richard Castle is back, with the first installment of his new Nikki Heat crime thriller series! After he killed off Derrick Storm, his audience was left confused, angry, fearful. Was Richard Castle through? Was he throwing in the pen?

No. Not by a long shot. Castle has come back with a new brand of detective: the tough, independent, yet secretly empathetic Nikki Heat. When a real estate tycoon is found dead after a long drop and a sudden stop, Heat, along with Riley and Ochoa (collectively known as Roach) and her ubiquitous story-seeking journalist companion, Jameson Rook, begin to delve into his past. The bodies pile up as the wisecracking team uncover more leads.

Jameson can't manage to follow most of the basic orders Heat gives him. Heat manipulates him into getting something through his connections that she can't get through official channels. Riley and Ochoa lay the gallows humor on thick. It's everything we want and nothing we don't. Welcome back to the bestseller list, Castle.

Haha, okay, I can't keep a straight face anymore. Enjoyable as this novel was, I couldn't suspend my meta-disbelief very well. The book is short, less than 200 pages. It comprises a series of events that could fit into one episode of the TV show. If you don't get the show, you probably won't like the book, since description is thin and action is paramount, and the thinly-disguised TV show characters are what you're meant to be picturing; you're already supposed to know who all the main protagonists are.

The book pokes fun at Castle's crush-like focus on Detective Kate Beckett. She is perfect in every way, except for not knowing how to be playful at sex, which the Jameson character helps her with. Her two assigned detectives in the show, Esposito and Ryan, are so low on his priority list that he comes up with one name for the both of them, and it's "Roach". The names for all the characters in the book are frightfully close to the names the characters on the show have. Laurie Parry even has both initials the same. Everyone is the same gender and personality.

In short, it seems that "Richard Castle" is great at writing twisty plots, but he's complete crap at writing original characters and has to rely heavily on his own "real life" acquaintances.

I highly enjoyed the meta-material in the book: the acknowledgments, the back cover, etc. The bit at the back where Castle thanks everyone had me laughing out loud. He thanks his mother and his daughter, by their TV character names, and then later he thanks the actresses themselves (by first name only), in a list of all the actors and actresses on the show. Including "Nathan"! Ha!

I could swear that when the book was on display or in Beckett's hands in the TV show, it was about 400 pages thick. No way was it the slender volume I just read. If ABC is going to charge $20 for a novelized account of every Castle episode, I think I'll just stick with the boxed DVD set instead. This is an excellent fun read for fans of the show, though, and if you're one, you should read this, even if you have to grab it from the library.

3 of 5 stars.

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