Saturday, June 1, 2013

Book Review: Naked Heat by Richard Castle (Nikki Heat #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fast paced fun book that should work whether you like the TV show or not
Cons: Still a few issues with the writing
The Bottom Line:
Writing has improved
Fast paced story kept me glued
To the book's pages




Does Nikki Get Naked in Naked Heat?

When it comes to media tie ins, the Nikki Heat series by Richard Castle stands out.  Why?  Because Richard Castle is the main character played by Nathan Fillion on the TV show Castle.  The premise of the series finds Castle following around NYPD homicide detective Kate Beckett because he is basing his new character, Nikki Heat, on her.  In a great piece of marketing, as the books are released on the TV show, they are also released in real life.  Since I'm a fan of the TV show, I had to give these books a try.  Naked Heat is the second one, and I liked it better than the first.

Naked Heat opens up a few months after the first book.  Detective Nikki Heat arrives on the scene of a new homicide.  Gossip columnist Cassidy Towne is found dead in her apartment.  In a fit of poetic irony, she has been stabbed in the back.  And who should be on the scene but journalist Jameson Rook.  Nikki hasn't seen Rook since she broke up with him when she saw the article he was writing about her.  It was too favorable, and she isn't enjoying her newfound celebrity status.

Cassidy was the subject of Rook's newest magazine article, and he'd been shadowing her for the last few weeks before she was killed.  Heat reluctantly concludes that Rook might have some insight into this case, so she agrees to let him tag along again as she works to find the killer.  Since Cassidy shared the dirt about anyone famous in New York, the list of suspects includes baseball stars, musicians, and disgraced politicians.  Can Heat find the killer before another person is killed?

I enjoyed the first book in the series, although I felt at times it was overwritten.  I was glad it had been just under 200 pages.  So when I saw this one was almost 300 pages, I was afraid I was in for a long read.  I'm glad to say the writing had greatly improved.  The 300 pages flew by much quicker, and I was able to get lost in the story.  There are still some writing issues, like point of view shifts and telling instead of showing, but it was much better this time around.

The real fun comes for the fans of the TV show.  Rook is quite obviously a stand in for Castle himself.  All the major players in the show, except for Castle's daughter, show up here at some point.  I know these are fictitious characters (different from the real characters on the TV show), but I can't help but picture the actors as I am reading the story.  And some of the lines are pretty funny if you know the TV show.  Plus you get Castle's take on his friends on the show.  It makes for some interesting reading.

Of course, the book wouldn't work at all if it weren't a good novel.  And it is a very good novel.  The mystery starts strong and continues well.  Even the twists I saw coming managed to surprise me at least to some degree.  The clues and twists were fairly steady, and the climax was thrilling if a tad over the top.  Okay, who am I kidding; parts of it were very over the top.  But this is supposed to be an over the top best seller, and it certainly works as that.

Obviously, I can't tell you have the characters in this book work for a non-TV show fan.  But I can tell you they work well for me.  There are some insights into the characters this time around, and I felt like they were a bit more fleshed out.  Then again, I constantly confuse them with their TV counterparts, so others might feel differently.  The new characters brought in for this novel were colorful and memorable on their own, so my guess would be that anyone would like the characters here.

The TV show is fairly tame in the sex and violence department, at least most of the time.  This book does have a bit more of both, so just be aware of that when you go to pick it up.

As to the book's title?  Unlike the first book, Nikki doesn't get naked in this one.  Naked Heat could refer to how she feels with the magazine article having been published in the current month.   Or it could just be a way to get some funny reactions out of TV character Kate Beckett, like the one we got when she found out what the title was going to be.  That's my best guess.

If you like Castle the TV show, you really should give the books by Richard Castle a chance.  Naked Heat will entertain you between new episodes of the show.

And if you are a fan of the show or the books (or both), you'll enjoy reading the Nikki Heat Mysteries in order.

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