Fiction: “Heat Wave” by “Richard Castle”

After the interminable chore that was finishing Devil’s Bride, I was looking for something violent. The more blood and guts, the better. So I ended up going to Border’s with the roommate, but couldn’t find anything to satisfy my needs. Mainly because I would have had to include vampires and werewolves in the “disgustingly violent” category, according to the selection at Border’s, and I wasn’t in the mood for supernaturally violent. No, I wanted a mystery that involved serial killing, or psychological torture, or …

Y’know? Reading that bit back to myself just now, if I were a medical professional, I’d be worried for my mental health.

But I’m not. So.

Anyway, long story short (TOO LATE), I couldn’t find anything violent and gross enough to make me happy (I did, however, pick up a copy of True Grit, which I will read at some point, because I did enjoy that movie during my Oscar!Watch project). So I came home and found Heat Wave lying on my floor, and I shrugged to myself and said, “Well, that’ll probably work. Although it’s probably more funny than violent.”

For those not in the know, Nikki Heat is written by “Richard Castle.” Why the quotes? Because “Richard Castle” isn’t a real person — he’s the main character on the eponymous ABC dramedy, Castle, played by the always delicious and hysterical Nathan Fillion. The premise in the pilot is that Castle killed off his beloved character Derrick Storm because he was bored with writing him. At the book’s publishing party, his agent and publishers are pushing him for a new novel. Problem is, he’s got writer’s block. And then he gets a call that Det. Beckett from the NYPD is asking him for help on a case — a murderer has staged his victim to look like one of the murders from one of Castle’s novels. He assists her in solving the case, and along the way, finds inspiration in her for a new character, for she is one bad-ass mother — shut yo’ mouth! He uses his pull with the mayor’s office to be allowed to go on ‘ride-alongs’ with Beckett so he can write his novel, to Beckett’s eternal frustration.

That was three seasons ago. At first, Beckett was completely against the idea — and rightfully so. But over the next season and a half, she eventually warmed up to him, and now expects him to accompany her on almost all her cases. Which he does, with much glee. He’s a regular part of her team, which includes Dets. Ryan and Esposito, who are quick-witted partners that enjoy teasing both Beckett and Castle. There’s also Lainie Parrish, the medical examiner, possibly Beckett’s only girl friend.

I imagine Nathan Fillion is exactly like his character: spastically enthusiastic about anything geeky and protective of his loved ones to a fault, with much pining about his BAMF partner. In other words, my perfect man. In different cases, Castle has a) brought an Indiana Jones hat to a case involving archaeology; b) thought that maybe Buffy killed a vampire look-alike in a cemetary, and, best of all, c) dressed up as Mal Reynolds for Halloween. Best show ever, am I right?

This is where someone pokes me and says, “Hey, Alaina, this is a book blog. Everything you’ve said up to this point is about a TV show. What gives?” What gives, my friend, is that Heat Wave is the first book by “Richard Castle,” based on Det. Kate Beckett.

And what I really enjoyed about this book is the care and detail the ABC Studios took in keeping up with the illusion that “Richard Castle” is a real writer. Unlike on a CSI novel, for instance, where it’s written by Max Allan Collins or someone else, there is no ghost-writer listed anywhere in the book. The author picture is of Nathan Fillion, posing as Castle. The dedication is the same as it was in the series: “To the extraordinary KB and all my friends at the 12th.” The acknowledgements page thanks his mother, Martha, and his daughter, Alexis. There’s even one of those author Q&A’s in the back of the book, asking Rick how he thinks Detective Beckett will react when she learns he’s written a sex scene.

[We as watchers of the TV show know how she reacts: she takes her copy and runs to the nearest restroom to find it, only to have Castle poke his head over the top of the stall and scare the bejeezus out of her.]

Okay, so, after all that blathering, you’re probably thinking to yourself: What the fuck is the book about, Alaina? Sorry, sorry; y’all know how much I love TV. (a lot.)

Nikki Heat is called to investigate what at first glance appears to be a suicide: real estate mogul Matthew Starr has fallen to his death from his sixth-story apartment. Her team, Det. Raley and Ochoa, arrive to assist, followed by medical examiner Lauren Perry, Nikki’s close friend. And then Castle — er, I’m sorry, Jameson Rook, star magazine journalist — shows up, as he’s following Det. Heat for an expose on homicide squads in New York.

Sound familiar? Well, it should — that’s the point. It plays like an episode of Castle, except in print. They go through the suspects: maybe it’s the wife? Maybe it’s the business partner? And there are a lot of different avenues, as the murder leads to an art theft, and Mr. Starr wasn’t the mogul he projected himself to be. Meanwhile, while this is going on, Heat and Rook verbally spar like their “real”-“life” counterparts, with assists from Raley and Ochoa.

(One thing I didn’t like about the book, either because it felt to easy, or out-of-character, or just plain odd, was that the team of Raley and Ochoa was shortened to “Roach” many a time. I mean, really? ‘Roach’? I don’t — that’s weird. Castle, if you were a real person writing this for realsies, I’m surprised that Ryan and Esposito didn’t give you tons of crap about that and force you to change that in the sequal.)

Now, what happens in the book that has not yet happened on-screen, is Heat and Rook actually do fall into bed. Oh, if only art would imitate life in that instance! (C’mon, Fillion, I know you like the sexual tension, but tension needs to be relieved!)

Another thing that happens in-book but not on-screen is that more is made of the friendship between Heat and Dr. Perry:

Meeting her friend for a drink after work once a week was more than just cocktails and chill time. The two women had hit it off right away over Lauren’s first autopsy, when she started at the M.E.’s office three years ago, but their weekly after-work ritual was really fueled by their professional bond. Despite cultural differences — Lauren came out of the projects in St. Louis and Nikki grew up Manhattan middle-class — they connected on another level, as professional women navigating traditional male fields. […] She and Lauren clung to their camaraderie and the sense of safety they had created with each other, to have a time and place to share problems at work, largely political, and, yes, to decompress and let their hair down without having it be in a meat market or at a stitch and bitch. [63-64]

On the show, we know that Lainie and Beckett are friends, but we never see it. I think it would be awesome to see that every once in a while!

As I read the book, there were a couple of grammar errors and weird syntaxes that struck out, which shows that it really wasn’t written by Richard Castle — I doubt the “real” Castle would have an errant comma splice. And this was awkward to me:

“A reporter … You’re not going to do a story about my husband, are you?”

“No. Not specifically. I’m just doing background research on this squad.”

“Good. Because my husband wouldn’t like that. He thought all reporters were assholes.”

Nikki Heat said she understood completely, but she was looking at Rook when she said it. And then she continued … [7]

I strongly feel that that should have gone like this:

“Good. Because my husband wouldn’t like that. He thought all reporters were assholes.”

“I understand completely,” Nikki said, giving Rook a long-suffering, deadpan glance. She continued …

Doesn’t that seem better? And, almost, more in-character? I don’t know … it’s the show, don’t tell, thing.

Anyway. I really liked this book, and intend to not only keep this around for others to read, but also purchase the sequel, Naked Heat, when I can get it for the same deal I got Heat Wave: at Target, in paperback, for 25% off.

Grade for Heat Wave: 3.5 stars

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