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12 February 2012 @ 05:55 pm
Heat Wave  
I can't quite decide whether this is a terribly clever idea or one of the most blatant pieces of within series merchandising advertising ever. For those of you not familiar with Castle the TV series it features crime-novelist, Richard Castle, ostensibly shadowing Homicide Detective Kate Beckett for research purposes. Castle refashions Beckett as his character Nikki Heat and the first of his Nikki Heat novels is Heat Wave (available from all good book sellers - or at least Amazon).

Taken at face value, as a detective novel set in modern New York, it's moderate to good. The story itself is nicely put together and kept me guessing and interested. I rolled my eyes a little at the scene where Nikki Heat has to take on a home invader completely naked since she'd just got out of the bath, but on the whole her character is treated well. Unfortunately, the prose itself is a little clunky in places. In particular, in the first few chapters, it slips uneasily in and out of Nikki Heat's point of view giving us her inner thoughts in one paragraph and then describing her appearance in the next. While I know that the fixation with third person limited points of view is a comparatively modern convention, you need to be better than this to get away with ignoring it. Secondly since Heat is habitually referred to by her surname (as Beckett is in the show) and the book takes place during a heat wave, there were a number of sentences (generally ones that started with the word "Heat") that I had to go back and read again in order to parse correctly. That was quite distracting.

moosifer_jones noted in her review of Heat Wave that the novel series allow the makers of Castle to have their UST cake and eat it, preserving the will-they-won't-they relationship between Castle and Beckett in the series itself, while having Rook and Heat resolving it happily in the novels. I'm not sure quite how well Heat Wave works as a Castle novel with-the-numbers-filed-off. Heat is recognisable as Beckett but her subordinates Raley and Ochoa (analogues of the show's Ryan and Esposito) felt rather personality free and their conflation into "Roach" in the text irritated me. In fact, I'd say one of the novel's big failings is that, Heat aside, I never became particularly interested or invested in any of the characters, and making you care about the incidental characters and what happens to them is pretty important for any good detective story. You want to be rooting for some, and disliking others and then to be pleased or horrified as the guilty parties are revealed. Rook's profession as a journalist (as opposed to Castle's novelist) is also awkward. Obviously the whole premise for Castle is basically preposterous, but it seems even more unlikely that people would talk openly to a police officer with a journalist in the room, than they would with a novelist in the room. All too often in the story the fact of Rook as a journalist bounced me out of a scene. Lastly Rook is a far less interesting character than Castle himself and this leads me into the third way you can read Heat Wave which is as the novel that Richard Castle wrote.

Rook is canonically a massive Mary Sue. It's stated explicitly a number of times in the show that Castle wrote himself into his own novel and it's interesting the Mary Sue boxes that Rook ticks and the boxes that he doesn't. He gets the girl, which of course is a massive Mary Sueism. But he's consistently shown to be a step behind Nikki Heat (and even Raley and Ochoa). One of the things I like about the show is that it isn't about a brilliant novelist who solves crimes that the poor dumb police can't but how it presents a genuine team up between Castle and the police detectives in which their strengths complement each other. However Heat Wave takes a step away from that. Rook is relegated to the role of onlooker and impediment while the focus is clearly on Nikki Heat. Of course, this reflects Castle's own obsession with Beckett. Moreover, we never see inside Rook's head and we never learn of his life outside those moments when he is with Nikki Heat. He has no daughter or mother or home life to intrude. That's fun too, in a way, Castle lays bare Beckett's personal demons on the page from her driven professionalism to her mother's death and yet reveals almost nothing about himself despite having written himself into the story. It was the revelation about Heat's mother's death that most made me wonder about Beckett's reaction to the book from the show. We know about the sex scene from fairly early on in season 2 (I think) and we know Beckett deals with it by distancing herself from the character of Nikki Heat, but we never see her confront Castle about using this terribly intimate and personal fact about her past as a character detail for Nikki Heat and I can't imagine that she wouldn't have done so. In some ways, this is exactly the novel I can imagine Castle writing. It's a love letter to Kate Beckett but I can't help feeling that she would have loathed it with the cringing horror of someone who sees their every insecurity laid bare to the world at large.

So in summary, hmm..., this is an OK detective novel, I think it falls short as a Castle novel, but is fascinating as the novel Castle wrote within the show. I'm not sure I was fascinated enough to pick up the next two novels in the series. It's definitely an interesting experiment in the arena of tie-in merchandising and I'd be interested in seeing more shows attempt something like this, that can both illuminate canon and be its own thing without worrying about contradicting canon. But at the end of the day, Nikki Heat aside, I wasn't really invested in any of the characters and this needed more.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/61539.html.
fredbassettfredbassett on February 12th, 2012 07:52 pm (UTC)
I sometimes get sent these for review and have never been able to place them, so if I get any more, I'll pass them on to you. Not expecting a review, but if you'd like them, that's fine, otherwise they get bunged to my mother in law or the charity shop.
louisedennislouisedennis on February 12th, 2012 08:11 pm (UTC)
Sure, send them my way. I've no objection to reading them if they're free!!! You have fairly tight word counts for reviews on RTE don't you? I don't mind giving a review a shot, though I take longer to get through my physical toread pile than I do through my electronic one!!!
fredbassettfredbassett on February 12th, 2012 08:16 pm (UTC)
Minimum word count is 300. Anything up to about 550 is fine, after that we might look at cutting.

BTW, there's another UK draw up this week that I keep meaning to publicise.

if another one comes up, I'll bung it your way.