Review: Heat Wave: Richard Castle

As regular readers will know, I’m not a big crime fiction reader. So the above book is not my normal choice when faced with a bookshelf of choices. But then, this is not an ordinary crime fiction novel, and its genre is not the reason I picked it up. I picked it up because of the grinning face on the back cover.

Alright, I agree, not the best reason in the world to read a book but I doubt I am the only one that was intrigued as to how the transition from fake writer on a tv show to real novel would go. I think we can all agree that Nathan Fillion has the midas touch when it comes to TV projects. First comes Firefly. Cancelled after a mere 12 aired episodes. Becomes one of the ultimate cult shows of our generation. And then comes Castle. Stupid concept, it should not work, and yet it does. They break all the rules of cop-show writing. SPOILERS: Too much flirting, getting the couple together, marrying them off… normally those are end of run breakers but Castle keeps going from strength to strength. And so, with all that success, why not try something new? Why not have your completely fictional author (Mr Fillion/Richard Castle) write the books he’s doing research for on the show?

I would love to say that I loved this book. That I couldn’t put it down, but I’d be lying. Heat Wave is not a bad book. But it ain’t New York Times Bestseller material either trust me. I don’t know who ghost writes the books. There are a lot of theories but never confirmed but my guess would be the screenwriters of the show. This book is just a little… dry. It has all the common errors I worked out of my own work years ago. It puts chapter breaks where you’d shout “cut” on set rather than where suits best the momentum of the book. The description reminds me of over-embellished stage directions. You get the point, in fact in places, you can see exactly what the author is getting at but it reads too technical for my taste. And there are also some questionable, high school-style descriptive passages that just make the whole thing feel a little trite.

This book, in many places, reads like a “how-to” for solving crimes. I got the impression that the author was so busy trying to remind us how much awesome research he had done and got all those details right that he lost his own story to them. Several times I caught myself thinking, “I don’t care, just get on with the story already”. It is also a very insecure book. It doesn’t trust its reader. It does a lot of telling, not showing, particularly in reference to Nikki’s relationship with Rook. She tells you how she is feeling rather than letting you feel it with her. And it does a lot of ‘show and then tell for good measure’ – for example the camaraderie after she is attacked, or lack of, but then instead of letting the reader draw his own conclusions that seeing as neither member of Roach seem particularly sadistic, this is their way of being supportive, it has to beat you over the head with it in a long paragraph that reads more like research notes from an essay entitled “Black humour as coping mechanism in the Police Force.”

And on the topic of crime, they weren’t particularly inventive. I saw the conclusion coming from a mile off and wasn’t particularly intrigued to see it through. I could tell you, as I went along, which episodes they had stolen what from and while for some fans that might make it fun, I just found it overly indulgent. And a massive bug bear I have is that a lot of the background is just told to us. We don’t see Rook and Nikki meet for the first time and we get a lot of the background to their relationship told to us in offhand sentences here and there. From a personal point of view, I would have much preferred that it was written as this being their first case together. Without it, the relationship between the two feels forced and fake.

The characters feel like a fan-fiction indulgence. Now I know for some people that’s what they love about the book. Personally, I found it turned them all very two-dimensional. Nikki Heat does not think logically. She thinks in plot conveniences which bothers me. Funnily enough, I actually like Rook. Here we get some of Castle’s charm finally showing through. I think he’s handled well and for the part, even if he does act like a moron for most of the book, jumping from baseless conclusion to baseless conclusion – the point of which I can only guess was to give Nikki yet more of a chance to show how unlikable she could be. Roach are… background. Stupid name aside, they just offer additional dialogue but otherwise I found their character building stuff empty or forced. Actually enjoyed Lauren. Obviously a straight rip off from Lanie but she works and is well translated into the fiction. Likewise the Captain. It was nice to have Montgomery back for a while.

Reading all this, it would easy to conclude that I did not enjoy this book. That isn’t necessarily true. I was just disappointed by this book. I wanted this to be Castle’s book. I wanted to feel him in the narrative. Feel his sense of humour, his turn of phrase. But there is no sense of Castle in the actual prose. Sure, they’ve turned Rook into his identical twin but I didn’t sign up for just another Castle episode. I wanted a Heat episode written by Castle. In the end, anyone could have written this book and that is what disappointed me about it the most. The crime wasn’t quirky or out-there, the characters were just twists on the usual crime fighting pack, the prose was clinical and efficient but lacking personality.

This book, at the end of the day, is the ultimate fan-fiction. Don’t expect anything else from it, and you’ll have a good enough time on the ride. But trust me when I say, New York Times Bestseller Richard Castle is not!! I shall not be reaching for the remainder of the series.

Rating: 3-10 – low standard even for a throwaway read, though my disappointment at the missing Castle adds an extra negative to the score.

Favourite Quotes (0): Sorry, it just isn’t written well enough for me to find some.

Favourite Character: ME Lauren.

Least Favourite Character: Nikki Heat