Monday, October 19, 2015

Book Review: Driving Heat by Richard Castle (Nikki Heat #7)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great mystery to keep you turning pages, fun tie ins to Castle
Cons: Supporting characters could be a little stronger
The Bottom Line:
The next mystery
Keeps Nikki guessing and us
Turning the pages

Heat Drives Toward Another Case Solved

Every year, I look forward to reading the latest Nikki Heat mystery by “Richard Castle.”  Yes, I find the mysteries to be good, but I also enjoy seeing what small references to the show Castle they slip into the book.  Driving Heat is the seventh in this bestselling series, and it’s another wonderful ride.

For those who aren’t in on the joke and the series, these novels were inspired by the TV show Castle.  In that show, Nathan Fillion plays Richard Castle, a bestselling author who decides to base his latest character on NYPD detective Kate Beckett.  This character?  Nikki Heat.  Of course, to do that, Castle must follow Beckett around helping her solve cases.  Somewhere along the way, it was decided that the books Castle was writing should actually be written and published for fans of the show to read.  The identity of the real writer remains a mystery (although I’ve seen some credible theories about who is writing them.)  Bits and pieces of the show appear in each book, although the books are strong enough to stand up on their own to any mystery lover.

This book opens on a day of change for Nikki Heat.  It’s her first day as Captain of the twentieth precinct.  However, the day gets off to a rough start before she even makes it in the office when the body of her psychiatrist, Lon King, is found.  With such a personal connection to the victim, Nikki begins to investigate in addition to taking on her new responsibilities.

Things take an interesting turn when video of the doctor’s office finds Nikki’s fiancĂ©e, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jameson Rook, going into the office.  He refuses to discuss why he was there, driving a wedge between them and complicating Nikki’s case.  What secret is Rook hiding?  Can she juggle her new administrative duties and still solve the case?

Obviously, the character of Nikki Heat is following the career path of Kate Beckett (who just became a captain this season on the show as well), although she has gone through a different path to get there.  In fact, it was interesting seeing a precinct without the work place drama in this book, something that has added complications to the mystery in the past multiple books in the series.  Part of me enjoyed that, and part of me missed it.  On the other hand, I do like the detectives who are under Nikki, and watching them all work together is quite fun.

The plot is great as well.  It starts a little slowly, but it continues to build until we reach a great climax.  The story managed to surprise me along the way, and the ending was absolutely wonderful. 

Of course, I do have to point out my annual disclaimers about the characters.  While Nikki and Rook are fully developed, the rest of the regulars are a bit thin.  Roach, the detective duo of Raley and Ochoa, based on the TV characters of Ryan and Esposito, are certainly better, but the other trio of homicide cops could be more sharply defined, although they are defined enough for us to like them.  Likewise, these books always read slowly.  It’s not that I’m not into the story, but I’ve finally figured out the type is smaller than I’m used to.  Once I mentally get myself in the space for how long it will take me to read the book, I’m fine.

As I said, these books would be wonderful mysteries even if you didn’t watch the TV show.  However, if you do, you’ll spot a few small references or throw away lines that are from the show.  These moments always make me smile if not laugh outright, and I love them.  And in this book, those in jokes include the name of the murder victim.

So whether you watch the show or not, consider picking up Driving Heat.  You’ll be lost in a great mystery before you know it.

(Now, if only next year’s book can avoid the missteps they are doing on this season of Castle, we’ll be in great shape.)

Looking for more of these creative tie ins?  Check out the Nikki Heat Mysteries in order.

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