Review: Storm Front: Richard Castle

So, anyone who read my Heat Wave review might be a bit surprised to see me reading this. Last time Richard Castle and I met on a bookshelf it did not end well. However, I believe in equal to all so I thought, having given Nikki Heat a chance, it was only fair I give Derrick Storm his chance to impress me.

And impress me he did.

If I didn’t know better – and frankly with ghost written stuff no one really does – I’d say the two were written by two completely different people. Everything Heat Wave lacked, this book gives in spades.

Firstly, the story. Whereas Heat Wave was an utter rip off of several Castle episodes, this was a new story. It was clever, it was unpredictable, it had just enough quirkiness to it to suit Castle and it kept me reading. Sure some of the financial stuff went over my head and it is full of the melodrama we have come to love and enjoy in Castle double episodes (Richard Castle is obviously the only  person in New York who can save them all from an atomic bomb…), but I forgave it. Never at any point did I put the book down and have half a mind to never pick it up again (like with Heat Wave), rather the inverse. I read this book quickly and eagerly and was (mostly) not disappointed.

The second ace it pulls is the characters. I happen to love Storm. Many wouldn’t. Maybe I can blame my dad and the diet of Dirk Pitt and James Bond books I grew up on but he honestly feels like an early Clive Cussler character. He’s funny and smart. He’s entertaining and mostly stays away from the usual stupid things spies do. In the series, Castle admits to Bond being his favourite book and you can feel it in this. It is almost an homage and again, it made me smile. This book was just serious enough to keep me hooked but took itself lightly enough for me to forgive it the little moments of frivolity. I love Jones (the little we see of him) and both female characters (Strike and Xi Bang) are strong and interesting balances to Storm, offering strong female counterparts like the later Bonds (think Vespa, think the Daniel Craig era Moneypenny) instead of the damsels in distress of the earlier instalments. I like the idea of enemy agents working together, it adds an interesting and unusual facet to the relationship. The supporting cast are strong and dynamic. From our evil villain of the week, Volkov (Russian, of course, this is a Bond imitation after all…) to the various financiers, the geeks and the Sister (who personally I fell in love with), they are engaging, original and three-dimensional, a far cry from the flat, cardboard cutouts that Heat works with. Talking of, the insert of Heat and Rook was a little kitsch but I was enjoying myself so felt inclined to forgive it. Besides, who doesn’t want two Nathan Fillion’s in one room?? Even so, Heat managed in her handful of lines to remind us just how unlikable a character she is. Also, I thought the homage to Montgomery was quiet but touching and perfectly fitting with the way I think Castle would have memorialised the character.

However, the thing I loved the most about this book was that it was written by Richard Castle. I could hear him in this book. From the opening (and recurring) reference to “ruggedly handsome” to the banter between the characters and the compulsive name dropping that is so Castle you can’t help but smile, you could feel the enjoyment the author had putting the story together. And that enjoyment was translated into me as a reader. This book felt like it was written by someone who truly loved those he was trying to emulate, who was having fun and wasn’t afraid of having a little silly from time to time. In the series, we see how much he loves spy fiction, in this book you can feel it. From the little references to Bond to the tongue-in-cheek humour that is dotted throughout the prose, even at its most serious, this book can make you smile. It is a love letter from Castle. Storm is just the kind of character you could imagine him writing. Even down to his father, Castle has written his own fantasy. The boy who dreams he’s a spy and his dad is this big ole spy hero too. The “ruggedly handsome” hero who always gets his guy and walks away with the girl. But unlike the wooden fan fiction that is Heat Wave, this is done with such love and skill that you forgive him and instead indulge him and share his dream for 300 pages or so.

But don’t think this is all laughs. This book has a gravelly gut. The sequence in the tube station. Storm’s guilt (which is refreshing in this style of genre – where a stupid plan actually ends up proving itself stupid). There is definitely a dark, thriller edge which, at the end of the day, is what keeps you reading.

Far from me to say this book is perfect, I would say this book is good. If you are looking for a fun-but-sensible spy thriller that will get you through a two hour wait in an airport this is the perfect book. It’s easy but with just enough eloquence that it doesn’t become un-atmospheric, and is altogether an engaging read. While it is not exactly great literature it is a fun book. This is the book I was expecting. This book as Richard Castle behind every word. I think any Castle fan will not be disappointed by Storm. Shame Castle killed him off really…

Rating: 7-10 – easy, fun, entertaining. Perfect holiday reading.

Favourite Quotes (0): Better written but still nothing to write home about.

Favourite Character: Storm

Least Favourite Character: Volkov (at the end of the day, he’s a bit of a cliché)