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Book Review: Heat Wave by Richard Castle

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ABC's Castle may not be the most popular mystery show on television — but the book "written" by its main character, Richard Castle (played by Nathan Fillion) is racing up the charts. Heat Wave, the oft-mentioned first book in the Nikki Heat series, was ostensibly written by Castle himself — though he is as much a fictional character as are the characters he creates in Heat Wave.

The layering of fiction upon fiction here is one of the book's charms. On the show, Richard Castle is a famous mystery writer who uses his influence to get himself partnered-up with no-nonsense homicide detective Kate Beckett, so that he can learn about the real, gritty cop world. This, in turn, inspires Castle to create Nikki Heat as his new main character — a homicide detective saddled with a writer partner, the famous journalist Jameson Rook.

In Heat Wave, Heat and Rook (and Heat's two sidekicks, Raley and Ochoa) are charged with investigating the over-the-balcony murder of a major Manhattan real-estate developer, Matthew Starr. Early on, things get more complicated as neither Starr nor his wife turn out to be what they seem; despite living in a mansion lined with pricey paintings and fancy furniture, Starr is flat broke.

The twists and turns of the mystery are as predictable as, well, a procedural television show. Luckily, the who-dunnit is only one of two suspenseful storylines powering this book: there's also a romance.

Unlike on the show, Heat Wave is told exclusively from Nikki Heat's point of view. She spends the book torn between annoyance at Rook — similar to Beckett's usual treatment of Castle on the show — and desire, a component TV viewers are left only to hope for. A moment early in the book finds Heat and Rook a little too close for her comfort:

Nose-to-nose with him in the heat, she held his gaze and watched the dance of reflected sunlight playing off his eyes. And then she blinked. Oh shit, she thought, what was that? I can't be attracted to this guy. No way.Well, actually, yes way. Viewers of the show already know how this ends — in a steamy scene midway through the book — but the play back and forth between the two characters is fun and unforced, and often less predictable than the mystery they're pursuing.

The most fun — and interesting — part of the book remains its tie-in to the show. ABC hasn't revealed who the "real" Richard Castle is (and actor Fillion is apparently attending his book-signing parties), but a safe bet would place it in the hands of one of the show's actual writers. There's insider information all over these pages, which seem to be narrated completely in Castle's voice and an accurate (and telling) picture of how a delightfully egotistical artist might hope he's seen through the eyes of a tough female cop.

Heat Wave is a fun read for fans of Castle and might even be a worth-while pick-up for fans of the mystery genre, which it manages to both spoof and live happily within all at the same time. At the end, readers are left with two real mysteries: Who is the real Richard Castle, and when will he write again?

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About Jenn Kepka

  • Scott

    You ask, “Who is the real Richard Castle, and when will he write again?” Well, Fillion has actually confirmed the ghost writer has “appeared on the show.” My bet has it as on-set shaman Stephen J. Cannell – godfather of show producer Rob Bowman.

  • That sounds like a great guess, Scott — someone with insider information seems most likely. I keep hearing speculation that it’s James Patterson, who has also appeared on the show, but I think his blurb on the book jacket takes him out of the running for that.

  • Alysha

    Maybe thats why it makes James Patterson a great guess. Wouldn’t you want to praise your own book if it wasn’t your name on the cover?

    Many of my local friends are talking about J.D. Robb. Kate Beckett is very similar to Eve Dallas in Robb’s In Death series.

  • Ella

    I had heard the ghost writer was Tom Straw, another of the guys in Castle’s poker group, but I think Stephen J. Cannell is a good guess as well 🙂

  • yoyomon

    I have to agree JD Robb (Nora Roberts )is the ghost here, as i do own the whole In Death Collection, Book form and Audio form.
    and thats what keeps me coming back season after season.

  • It’ can’t be Cannell. He passed away a while back.

  • Douglas Marcks

    In answer to one of the questions asked at the end of the above review “Will Richard Castle write again? As of 2013 there are several New York Times Best Selling sequels to “Heat Wave” published by Hyperion Books, “Naked Heat”, “Heat Rises”and “Frozen Heat”(e-book) As to who writes them? After reading “Heat Wave”… I’m figuring James Patterson.