Onyx reviews: Heat
Wave by Richard Castle
Richard Castle is the name of the character played by Nathan Fillion on the
ABC TV series Castle. Rick Castle is a famous crime novelist who uses his connections in NY political
and social circles to get himself attached semi-permanently to
female homicide detective Kate Beckett while he
researches a character for his next book. It's good P.R. for the department,
Beckett's supervisors tell her.
Castle ultimately writes his Beckett-inspired novel during the course of the series.
It's called Heat Wave, and it becomes an element of the story. Beckett
jockeys for a pre-release copy of the book so she can see how
Castle has depicted her.
natural, then, that ABC should decide to publish the novel. In the past, the network has
cross-promoted TV series such as Lost
and Rose Red with novel tie-ins. They are generally cagey about revealing the true identity
of the authors of these crossover books.
Heat Wave is a fairly standard crime novel that is only
slightly more complex than a TV episode. It clocks in at a breezy 208
pages and can easily be read in a single sitting. The language is PG-13, the sex
scenes could be aired during prime time, and one would be exposed to more
violence on a typical episode of C.S.I. It's not best-seller material,
although it has become a bestseller because of its heredity and association to a
highly rated TV program.
Nikki Heat, Kate Beckett's alter ego, is saddled with Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jameson Rook
(thereby extending the chess metaphor), who is writing an article about homicide
investigations during one of Manhattan's heat waves. This isn't an original
conceit—Ed McBain's Heat described the parallels between a heat
wave and a crime wave in his fictional version of NYC. The concept of
fictionalized versions of fictional characters is intriguing, though also not
The first murder victim is Matthew Starr, a wealthy
developer cut from the same cloth as Donald Trump, who falls six stories to his
death from his luxe apartment. He was beaten by thugs earlier the same day, and
the investigation slowly reveals that Starr's empire was in trouble.
and Castle are essentially clones, swaggering, wealthy, privileged, connected,
charming, dapper, witty, and irresistible to women. The novel is essentially
Castle's fantasy wish fulfillment—the relationship between Rook and Heat
is more torrid than the one between Castle and Beckett.
Because Heat is
the protagonist, the author gets to swivel the camera and reveal Rook/Castle
from Heat/Beckett's perspective. It also allows Heat to put Rook in his place
from time to time, forbidding him from participating in dangerous or delicate
aspects of the investigation.
The banter and light comedy that plays out so
well on the TV series falls flat on the printed page. It comes off as juvenile
and forced. However, the book does a yeoman's job of showing how unexciting the
life of a homicide detective can be. That's not to say the book is boring—it's
too short and fast-paced to ever become tedious and "Castle" injects
enough jeopardy to keep the tension level high. But Heat is determined to show
Rook that the way murders are solved is far more mundane and exacting than it is
typically depicted on television. Questions are asked and new information is
gleaned through routine investigative techniques.
The mystery itself is
satisfyingly sophisticated and the conclusion does contain some surprises. It
extends into the world of art theft, protection rackets and the economic bust.
This isn't just a hack job of a novel, but neither is it likely to set the
mystery world on fire. It serves its purpose, which is to extend the reach of
the Castle franchise and to give fans of the series another level on
which to enjoy the show. It's not clear, though, how the book would be received
by someone unfamiliar with Castle.
For literary sleuths interested in
figuring out the true identity of the author, scrutinize the About the Author
blurb. There's a named award associated with Richard Castle that holds a significant
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2009. All rights reserved.