“Heat Wave,” best-selling mystery author Richard Castle’s eagerly awaited new book (the first about his new character, Nikki Heat) hit bookstores today!
If you have no idea who best-selling mystery author Richard Castle is, you haven’t been watching ABC’s “Castle” starring Nathan Fillion. And if you haven’t, shame on you. Aside from the fact that Fillion is in it, “Castle” is a refreshing change from the endlessly intense police procedurals and CSI: Whatevers that load up the screen. “Castle” is attitude-TV, the latest progeny of the Rockford Files-Columbo-Murder She Wrote school of detective shows where the actual crime is secondary to watching the stars be wiseasses at each other as they solve it.
Castle is an internationally famous mystery writer who has killed off his main character and needs a new idea. Enter NYPD Detective Kate Beckett, working on a case in which the murder scenes resemble scenes from his books. Castle discovers his new muse — hard-as-nails, intelligent, beautiful Beckett — and uses his pull with the mayor to hang around the department for “research.” Just about everyone on the show shines, but if nothing else watch it for Fillion’s charm and the novelty of finally seeing him on a show in its second season.
Through the first season we saw newly-inspired Castle write his new book, “Heat Wave.” And then ABC and Hyperion Books actually published the thing, which presents a problem.
We’ve been told, over and over, that he’s a world-class writer, right? So there’s a certain level of expectation for the book. Can we, reading it, believe that a best-selling writer wrote it?
The answer is yes, but that writer is Dan Brown.
The concept of the book itself is just what I was hoping for. Clearly inspired by his own situation, Castle wrote about Det. Nikki Heat and the world-famous reporter (Jameson Rook) who’s allowed to follow her around thanks to a favor from the mayor, as they work to solve the murder of a big shot developer. You can see where bits and pieces from the show crept into his writing, even whole scenes at times such as the high-level poker game Castle tricked Beckett into, and that’s a 208-page easter egg for the fans. It’s written from Nikki Heat’s perspective, so it’s like you’re seeing what Castle thinks Beckett is like (or at least an idealized version of Beckett). The dialogue is crisp and funny, the plot is as good a mystery as any I’ve read, and the characters have their own personalities hiding within the cliched mystery-novel conventions.
But the style of the book gets on my nerves. Like Dan Brown, “Castle” not only tells you what someone is doing, but why they are doing it, every step of the way, like color commentary.
Kimberly gave her the name of a doctor, Cory Van Peldt. Yes, it was the truth, she said, and yes, it was the same doctor she’s seen this morning. Heat had her spell his name and wrote it on her pad along with his number. Kimberly said she met him when she went in for a facial assessment two weeks ago, and they had this magic thing. Heat was betting the magic was in his pants and in his wallet, but she knew better than to say so. She prayed Rookhad the same sense.
As long as things were in a hostile vein, Nikki decided to press on. In a few minutes she would need Kimberly’s cooperation with the photos and wanted her to think twice about lying, or be so rattled that she’d do it poorly if she did. “A lot of things can’t be taken at face value with you.”
Instead of someone telling you a great story, it’s more like they’re telling you about a great story they saw. And that’s how “Heat Wave” is written, start to finish. Rarely are we ever granted the luxury of just reading what’s happening and using our own imaginations to wonder about motivations. Over and over we are told, not shown.
Thing is, Dan Brown is a hugely best-selling author for some reason I can’t understand, so Castle’s “Heat Wave” may be exactly what America wants on its bedside table.
I love the show. I love the characters. I love the concept of the book, the people in the book, the meat of the book, basically everything about the book but the book itself, which is kinda disappointing. I think Fillion coulda done better.
You can decide for yourself, ABC has several chapters online for free. Personally, when it comes to TV tie-in novels, I prefer Lee Goldberg’s “Monk” books. But this was a decent effort and a nice complement to the series, as well as a great thing to take to Nathan Fillion autograph signings.
Edited to add: What I really want to see now is Beckett, on the show, reacting to reading this. It’s a pretty obvious wish-fulfillment story and a hell of a come-on…