Welcome back to the Castle Summer Book Club! This week we finish up the first Nikki Heat novel, Heat Wave.
There was some discussion in the comments last week about the “How good a writer is Castle?” question, so I thought I’d revisit that and maybe clarify my own opinion a bit. I wasn’t saying that I thought the actual writing was good – it’s mediocre at best, though far from the worst pop culture tie-in book I’ve come across. (Some of them are really really bad.) It’s more that I was trying to figure out whether Castle was supposed to be a good writer based on what they were attempting, but not necessarily achieving, in this novel. So in that sense, I maintain that he’s better than Patterson but not quite at the level of some of his other poker buddies. Honestly, a lot of my interest in this question probably stems from the way it slightly baffles me that the show has this set of writers hanging out regularly.
Now that we’ve gotten to the end of the mystery, let’s talk about it a little. The solution wasn’t surprising – there really weren’t enough suspects to make it surprising, whoever it was – but at least the denouement with the paintings was structured in a fun way. While the Russian thug side of things provided a threat to Heat and added urgency to the whole situation, it ultimately seemed like a non-essential distraction. The story worked better when it was focused on the people closer to the victim on a personal level. I also thought the literal heat wave, while a fun device for other aspects of the book, wasn’t essential enough for the main mystery.
Other than the resolution to the mystery, of course, the big development in the second half of the book was Rook and Heat’s relationship. Obviously, the characters got together in the books much more quickly than Castle and Beckett did on the show. If Castle chose, he could probably excuse this somewhat as a simple business decision – the romance would presumably make the books sell better. But really, of course, we can see it as his way of dealing with his own fantasies and frustrations. I did think it was interesting that Heat slept with Rook before he knew about her mother’s murder, so we’ll see if that blows up somehow later.
I was disappointed that none of the characters other than Heat and Rook got any real development in this novel. I never really got a feel for Lauren or her friendship with Nikki, and the other detectives were just there to supply clues as necessary. To some extent, the connection to the show means we can imagine more into those characters than is on the page, but the book really should be able to stand alone. And this is a random quibble, but for some reason, the “Roach” thing drove me completely crazy. I get that it was probably supposed to be a cute nod to shipper portmanteaus used in fandom (like “Caskett” for Castle/Beckett), but it threw me out of the story every single time. But regardless, I hope they and other supporting characters get more development in future books.
So, future books! The rest of the Nikki Heat books are longer, so we’re giving them three weeks each. Next week we’ll take on chapters one through six of Naked Heat. And you can check out the schedule for the whole summer here.
(Photo courtesy of ABC.)