Driving Heat (Nikki Heat #7), by Richard Castle

Seven stars

In another Nikki Heat novel, Castle paints some interesting imagery in another New York-based adventure. Newly promoted to Captain and Precinct Commander, Nikki Heat must work through the kinks of the new job while juggling an h Homicide team and her ever-spontaneous fiancé, Jameson Rook. When called to the scene of a murder, Heat discovers the victim is more than simply a kayaker shot in the head, but her personal therapist, with whom she has shared many personal details. While hiding this from her team, the investigation continues, only to show that the therapist’s files have been removed from his office! sending Heat into a panic. Further probing of security camera footage shows Rook leaving the premises in the days leading up to the fateful event. Suspicious, but harbouring her own secrets, Heat sits on this as her squad continues to probe. When a second victim surfaces, this time at an auto safety testing facility, with Rook hanging around to find the body, suspicion turns to questions of coincidence. While he does not want to reveal sources or too many contents of a story, Rook admits that he is looking into software glitches related to safety mechanisms in vehicles. Further exploration shows that there is a potential cover-up and admissions of guilt from one party to their therapist. With Heat and her team on the case, foraging into the depths of software malfunctions, a rogue former cop begins targeting them and an industry geek sheds light on the subject, while drones hunt them down and provide a major roadblock to progress. After a kidnapping of Jameson Rook offers some insight into the killer, Heat must piece things together, while trying to decide if her choice to marry Rook is beneficial to her long-term happiness. With flavours of hokey and crime-fighting alike, Castle offers up a decent story with some interesting twists. Great for fans of both the tv and book series.

I have often struggled with the silliness factor embedded in the Castle novels. While there is a place for a character to shed some off-hand remarks that leave the reader rolling their eyes, the constant less than dedicated nature of Jameson Rook gets under my skin. That said, Castle is able to portray this character while pushing a decent story ahead and leaves the reader wondering as twists present themselves. For that, I am grateful and highly intrigued. As is addressed briefly in the novel, Nikki Heat’s presence outside the Squad Room and out fighting crime left me curious; is this not something she would give up with a higher rank? I suppose her promotion would come at a cost to readers and the storyline, leaving Castle to fudge some of the realities to make it happen. However, there may be a remedy on the way in the next novel, if some of the latter narrative is to be believed. Well-crafted with a decent narrative and dialogue, as well as the personal and workplace hurdles one can expect of a reformulated Homicide team, Castle captures some of the essence needed to keep the reader’s interests piqued.

Kudos, Mr. Castle for this. I am eager to see what the next novel brings, even if I have to suffer through more Jameson Rook.