Title: Heat Wave
Author: Richard Castle
Publication Date: September 2009
Purchase Price: $19.99 (hardback)
Misc. Info.: Based on ABC’s primetime show “Castle”
In the middle of a nasty heat wave in New York, real estate genius Matthew Starr plunges to his death from his fancy apartment, his widow is attacked by a mystery man just outside the building, and perpetrators start popping out of the woodwork like ants. It’s up to Nikki Heat and her annoying pseudo-sidekick Jameson Rook to figure out what’s going on, who did what, and why. And there’s lots of butt-kicking awesomeness (okay, and some sex too) thrown in for good measure — this is not your mama’s murder mystery novel. And as a bonus, alongside all the murderin’ and mystery’in, there’s plenty more narrative meat for the reader to digest.
In the show “Castle” (upon which this book is based) we really end up knowing more about Richard Castle; but in the novel Heat Wave, we get to see the entire story from Nikki Heat’s perspective (or Beckett’s perspective, depending on how you categorize it).
Urged by some inner force to become a detective after her mother’s murder, Nikki Heat has closed off much of her life to others. The only character that can be classified truly as her friend is the Medical Examiner, Lauren. Even Nikki’s co-workers, Raley and Ochoa, don’t seem to know too much about her personal life. Nikki occasionally lapses into considering what it would be like to date, get married, and have a home and a life with someone, but she fights off the feelings of loneliness again and again — if she doesn’t let anyone in, she can’t get hurt, right?
While it was definitely nice to see a story from Nikki Heat’s perspective, it was slightly difficult for me to separate the novel from the television show. Heat always equaled Beckett, and Rook was always analogous to Castle. Sometimes with Nikki Heat there was some characterization that seemed totally alien to the reader — probably because I’m so used to the characterization of Beckett on television. The characters sometimes get jumbled up. This book might be a slightly better read for those who don’t watch the show.
Nikki seems always preoccupied with “finding a man.” This goes against my Inner Feminist, especially because on the show “Castle,” Beckett does not seem that worried about it. But then that is the danger of seeing the story from a different character’s perspective — on the show, we see things from the point of view of Castle; in Heat Wave, the reader is privy to the thoughts of Nikki Heat that would never have been said aloud by her counterpart on ABC.
Jameson Rook, on the other hand, is almost a perfect copy of the character Richard Castle (not to the confused with the “author” Richard Castle…confused yet?): totally charming and witty and quick-thinking…and maybe a little on the dreamy side, despite his playboy history.
And of course there’s the obvious metaphorical connection between the city’s lack of rain and Nikki Heat’s inability to let someone into her life.
But really the best thing about this book was the dialogue. Rook and Heat exchange some pretty good barbs, and clever jokes abound. The more academically minded reader might draw some connections between Heat/Rook and Beatrice and Benedick of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
Following our “narrative as meat” metaphor, there’s not an ounce of fat on this steak — Heat Wave is tightly compacted into less than 200 pages. And it is versatile; a reader may get through it in a day and come away with a good murder mystery, or he/she can linger over the novel for days, getting into Nikki Heat’s head and figuring out what makes her tick.
And if you’re looking for a book that smells fantastic, look no further (you know, if you’re into that sort of thing).
“Almost a week of the big heat, and Manhattan was starting to bubble and blister like a cheese pizza.” (p. 83)
“But the big difference with Rook was that he was playful. And he made her playful. Rook gave her permission to laugh. Being with him was fun.” (p. 108)