Monday, April 19, 2010

Is It Hot In Here?

So, I've just realized how often I like to start sentences, paragraphs, and blogs with 'so', and I've decided to try my best to rectify this. Not doing a very good job, am I?

Today, though I still haven't finished or posted my review of the last book I finished (Fire by Kristen Cashore), I'm going to move ahead and review the latest book on my completion list while it's still fresh in my mind. Well, as fresh as it can be, having been completed over a week ago.

Heat Wave by Richard Castle
~Heat Wave~
Nikki Heat
Book 1
By Richard Castle
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks
A New York real estate tycoon plunges to his death on a Manhattan sidewalk. A trophy wife with a past survives a narrow escape from a brazen attack. Mobsters and moguls with no shortage of reasons to kill trot out their alibis. And then, in the suffocating grip of a record heat wave, comes another shocking murder and a sharp turn in a tense journey into the dirty little secrets of the wealthy. Secrets that prove to be fatal. Secrets that lay hidden in the dark until one NYPD detective shines a light.

Mystery sensation Richard Castle, blockbuster author of the wildly best-selling Derrick Storm novels, introduces his newest character, NYPD Homicide Detective Nikki Heat. Tough, sexy, professional, Nikki Heat carries a passion for justice as she leads one of New York City's top homicide squads. She's hit with an unexpected challenge when the commissioner assigns superstar magazine journalist Jameson Rook to ride along with her to research an article on New York's Finest. PulitzerPrize-winning Rook is as much a handful as he is handsome. His wise-cracking and meddling aren't her only problems. As she works to unravel the secrets of the murdered real estate tycoon, she must also confront the spark between them. The one called heat.
Show Tie-In

If the name sounds familiar, you may be a watcher of ABC’s Monday-night Crime-Drama, Castle…or you may have just happened upon a commercial for it. Either way, if you’ve caught the premise of the show, you’ve pretty much got the premise of the book.
  • Show: Richard Castle is a novelist who, having recently killed off his last meal ticket (literally speaking, of course), has cast Detective Kate Beckett of the NYPD homicide division as his new inspiration. With help from the right connections, he gains permission to tail Beckett and her team during their cases, much to her (initial) chagrin. Over time, Castle proves to be useful after all, and Beckett comes to welcome his humor and helpful insights to the daily grind. Castle and Beckett have plenty of romantic tension, but play it off humorously and have yet to share anything more than the occasional walk or car-ride.
  • Novel: Jameson Rook is a magazine freelancer who, having commissioned a piece on the NYPD, has cast Detective Nikki Heat of the homicide division as his main inspiration. With help from the right connections, he gains permission to tail Heat and her team during their cases, much to her (initial) chagrin. Over time, Heat finds she can’t help but be attracted to Rook and the couple finally shares a steamy night (in more ways than one) together in Chapter 10.
If you think they sound familiar…well, that’s probably because they really are. The book was published by Disney’s Hyperion and was done primarily for its tie-in with the show. In fact, the show just finished a two-part episode in which Heat Wave was used to help catch an over-enthusiastic fan gunning for Nikki Heat (aka Detective Beckett). The title, characters, and cover are the same, the page numbers, however, are different (the show claims around 340 pages; the real book, however is only 197).

I picked up the book solely for the tie-in, but I doubt anyone would be turned off it for not watching the series. It plays out very much like an episode, so if you’re an avid hater of the show, it wouldn’t be for you, but otherwise I think it appeals to anyone who enjoys a good cop-thriller novel.

Ghost Writer

Some mystery has arisen over who might have written the book. Every listing in the book names fictional character ‘Richard Castle’. Even the About The Author section shows a picture of Nathan Fillion (the actor who portrays Castle in the show) and lists the character’s bio.

At first, I thought it might be James Patterson, who happens to be one of the Executive Producers of the show. However, after reading it I’m pretty sure it’s not. The book has problems - ones that I don't think a seasoned writer, nor one who is closely involved with the show, would make. I don’t know if grammatical issues are the fault of the writer or the editor (or both?), but there definitely needed to be at least one more read-through.

And before you ask if these were simply due to “Richard Castle” being a novice, I’ll kindly answer, no. “Richard Castle” has supposedly written a best-selling Derrick Storm series, so he is hardly one to fall back to beginning errors.

This ghost writer needs a few more lessons…or a better ghost editor. Or…who knows? Maybe Richard Castle himself did write it… In that case, Nathan dear, you should slip a copy to James or one of his editor friends before sending it along to print.

A Few More Kinks

First, I have a few nit-picky things to get out of the way. After reading through rough drafts of stories online and giving my comments, I found it very hard not to cross things out and write suggestions for fixes in this book. For one thing, there are blatant grammatical errors: misplaced commas, run-on sentences, and sentence flow problems. A couple spots had me re-reading the sentence 5 or 6 times asking, “What the heck were they thinking?!” I’d quote directly, but I’ve already returned the book to the library.

The amount of time Rook has been tailing Heat is never directly established. I don’t have a huge problem with that fact, but I do feel that references to it should be more consistent. Heat's attitude makes it seem like he's been there for maybe one or two cases. Three tops. But she then goes on to state personal tidbits about Rook (such as referring to his mother as the Grand Damn), which make it seem like he's been around much longer. I mean (partly basing Rook off of Castle), yes, he might let tidbits like that slip if it somehow related to the situation at hand, but stuff that personal (and random) seems like it should take a chummier relationship to share.

And, if Rook has been around longer than one or two cases, then why would Heat still be that annoyed with him? Is he truly so useless that he comes off as merely an annoyance? Granted, Rook is not Castle. He’s not nearly as charming in print as Nathan Fillion is on the screen. He also doesn’t come across nearly as intelligent as Castle has proven himself to be. Rook relies more on his favors and high-profile connections to help the case than his actual wit. For a book that's supposedly inspired (and written) by Castle, these main characters fall short of their marks.

The Main Attraction

All that being said, it wasn't a chore to read. It’s not my usual genre, so the beginning took me a little while to adjust to. Plus, I kept trying to picture things as vividly as an episode, which took longer. Once I got in the groove of things, it was an easy and fun read.

The case was interesting, and kept me guessing all the way through. A suicide-that-wasn’t turns into a double homicide with a couple assaults, a home invasion, and an attempted rape thrown in. (I will admit, my mind was starting to ponder about home invasions just before one happened in the book, but I’m leaning toward it being coincidental.) Fans of the show will definitely recognize the long line of suspects and dead-ends, though I have to agree with Rook that the constant dogging around town did get rather tiresome.

The characters (despite some of their plot-based flaws) were engaging. Roach (Detectives Raley and Ochoa) were believable and intelligent. It did throw me off a few times how often they were referred to as a single unit, even in dialog, but it was quirky enough to work. The coroner (whose name unfortunately escapes me) had a great relationship with Heat, and ended up being one of my favorites of the bunch. Other star personalities on the show, like the Police Chief and Castle/Rook's Family, were downplayed, but I have hopes for them yet.

It was an interesting change of pace to get the story from the lady detective’s perspective rather than the writer/reporter who leads in the show. At times, I loved Heat’s insights and internal quips, but at others I craved a little more quirky interaction from Rook. It was almost as if the author were afraid of Rook stealing the spotlight, and so downplayed him as much as possible. He wasn’t even allowed to participate in the final “Gotcha!” scene! Still, Heat was as strong and sexy as her name and the book jacket imply.

Speaking of the “Gotcha!” scene, I have to say, it was straight out of television. Not in the way that I’ve seen it before, but in the way that it was purely a visual set-up. You had the cops go through all this pre-scene setup, leading the reader along with dialog and visual cues, and then they reveal to the reader and the suspect that they knew it was him/her all along and here’s all the proof. In reality, they would have, of course, simply cuffed him/her and taken ‘em to lockup. Instead, they set up an entire scene to lure them into a false sense of security, then don’t even need their confession to seal the deal. Course, it’s more dramatic that way.

Final Impressions

Though the book is lacking in a few areas, I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who has room for a quick and fun read. It’s something I can see myself re-reading, even knowing how it turns out. I will probably be purchasing the paperback this summer. News has been released of a sequel (Naked Heat) coming out this fall, which I will gladly pick up from the library (and buy, after it comes out in paperback).

Approximate Reading Time: 8 hours

Want to read a snippet or two? Or how about ten? ABC has kindly supplied snippets and chapter downloads HERE!