Naked Heat - Richard Castle

While I was in the middle of reading Naked Heat, I suddenly had the urge to finally pick up Castle and see what it was all about. After marathoning the first three seasons, I’m delighted to report that I thoroughly enjoyed the television series that this Nikki Heat book series is based off of. And I can see all the parallels as well as why many people love the television series more so than they like the Nikki Heat book series.

There is a line in one of the episodes of Castle where Kate Beckett quips that maybe there’s a little bit more of Nikki Heat in her than one might have thought. Well, that’s all fine and good, is what I was thinking; because unfortunately, despite being based off of Kate Beckett, I feel like there isn’t enough of Kate Beckett in Nikki Heat.

This, unfortunately, is one of the downfalls of the Nikki Heat series, if we must split hairs. In comparison to the television series, the characters just don’t hold up very well.

Naked Heat was written a whole lot better than the previous book, Heat Wave. While the concept and the murder mystery were acceptable in the first book, I found the writing hard to appreciate. In contrast, the writing in Naked Heat was a lot more progressive, smoother, better edited… The characters were a bit better developed.

And had I not gone ahead and watched Castle, I might have thought that Naked Heat managed to build its characters in a better manner.

But alas, having seen the television series, there is one definite trait that the television series has over the book series. The characters of the Nikki Heat books, despite being based off of the Castle television series, just do not compare.

There isn’t enough of Kate Beckett in Nikki Heat to bring the detective to life. There are layers and layers to Beckett’s life, history, and personality. She’s a tough cop with a cool attitude, but she also has her moments of vulnerability and girlish glee that just doesn’t seem to translate through to Nikki Heat. She’s realistic and down-to-earth, and not at all hard to relate with. Nikki Heat, in contrast, is the tough cop with a cool attitude and some sarcastic quips… but ultimately, she just doesn’t show much human emotion and comes off more distant and kind of a bitch than anything else.

And the character of Jameson Rook is simply too simple to even compare with Richard Castle. Despite having the same personality traits--childish, easily excitable, has no sense of boundaries, annoyingly arrogant--Rook is more of a surface scraping of Richard Castle’s true persona. There are also many more layers to Richard Castle, and one of the unfortunate things about Jameson Rook’s character when set up against Richard Castle, is that Rook has no back history that helps you understand his personality. The only thing we know about Jameson Rook is that he has a diva mother… but otherwise, that’s about it. Castle’s individual and family history (with his mother and his daughter and his previous marriages) does miles of good in turning Richard Castle into more than just the immature, childish, too excitable for his own good, arrogant Jameson Rook persona. He’s charming as a man, loving as a father, and amazing as a loving son. Having these traits to color his background makes Richard Castle a much more complex and likable person; in contrast, Jameson Rook merely comes off as an immature and annoying brat of a man-child.

I’ve also grown to love Lanie Parrish, Javier Esposito, and Kevin Ryan. Even Captain Roy Montgomery has a place in my heart. But on paper, in the Nikki Heat books, these people just don’t stand out.

So while written well with good story flow and progression (much better than the first book), the ultimate thing missing from the Nikki Heat series are the characters and their underlying lives that are supposed to make them shine. In the books, they just fall kind of flat.

Naked Heat is another high scale murder mystery with layers of secrets unraveling as the story progresses. A big name journalist is tortured and killed and Jameson Rook turns out to have his connections in this case because he’d been shadowing said journalist. On top of that, thanks to Rook’s other connections, he once again manages to help Heat and her detectives by providing his networking skills to get them interviews with celebrities and their ilk.

Along the way, Rook and Heat reconcile their relationship that had been strained at the beginning of this book due to Rook’s inconsiderate publishing of a “Nikki Heat”-centric article that, while casts her in a nice Tomb Raider-esque kickass light, also puts her name out for scrutiny by the rest of the NYPD who didn’t get mentioned.

So we have some human drama and the requisite murder mystery, and once again, I do appreciate the character interactions, the humor, and the investigative process that propels the storyline.

The mystery in this book is certainly more intriguing than the last, and the story progression and wit and humor were also at a higher notch. Still, the book itself comes off mediocre and uninspiring. And in a sense, it still reeks of “Now you’ve read another book, be sure to watch the television series” all over it.

And, in a way, if marketing for the television series is what this book sets out to do, then it is definitely doing its job.

As for the parallels, you can find them throughout the book. Except that this second book seems to correlate more with the second season and the third season of Castle. And I can’t help but wonder if these parallels are being thrown into the book on purpose to stimulate thought… because sometimes they come off as being a little awkwardly incorporated. But they are present such as the dead body snatching, or finding Castle/Rook at the scene of a murder, or even Rook/Castle introducing a famous professional thief of ye olden days to Heat/Beckett… though in a different context.

One thing I will say, however, is that I can’t fault the book too much on the underdeveloped characterizations. It’s probably not easy to compete with the crew of great actors and actresses who really manage to bring their own characters to life, and then trying to infuse a few tenths of that charm into a paper bio of a character.

Final Thoughts: A step up from book one, entertaining and enjoyable, better character developments, better story progression and writing. Enjoyable.