High Heat (Nikki Heat #8), by Richard Castle

Seven stars

With the return of Nikki Heat and Jameson Rook, Castle seeks to extend his book series past the ill-fated conclusion of his eponymous television program. With a presidential election only a few months away, New York is abuzz with candidate visits and fundraisers. However, it is the release of a video by a rogue ISIS group that has the NYPD buzzing. A young woman is beheaded and Jameson Rook is called out as the group’s next victim. Captain Nikki Heat is in a panic, both to find out who is behind this heinous act and to locate her husband, whose life is obviously in danger. When Jameson turns up after an assignment covering one of the candidates, the investigation shifts focus to finding out more about the ISIS video. Rushing from one scene to another, Heat spots a woman she feels strongly resembles her mother, a woman dead for seventeen years. Trying to chase her down, Heat is unable to locate the woman, but is so baffled that she disturbs the cremains to take a sample for testing. After Heat’s team zeroes in on location of the execution, a local mosque, real policing and racial profiling clash in a city where echoes of Islamic terrorism are not yet silent. Heat and her team soon reveal that the woman killed in the video was a high-profile journalist with one of the New York newspapers, who had been poking around on an undetermined story that took her to Ohio. Juggling this case and more about her mother, Heat faces trying to piece together the reality she thought was firm, only to realise that it might be as porous as the alibis some perps offer. Looking into some of those who were close to Cynthia Heat, the mystery continues. Could she still be alive and is someone trying to tie off the loose ends of those who could offer insight to a curious Nikki? The ISIS case breaks wide open, though not before Jameson tries to use his vast connections to impress his wife. With Rook on their radar, will ISIS capture and execute another journalist, causing more embarrassment for the NYPD? If she is alive, what is Cynthia Heat doing in the shadows while her daughter questions everything she thought she knew? Castle delivers a strong story, peppered with off-hand and silly humour for which his character was so well known on screen. An interesting read for series fans and curious mystery readers alike.

While I tired and stopped watching the television series, these books have usually been well worth my time. The writing is fairly strong and the ongoing development of series characters keeps the reader interested. While there is use of the ISIS angle, it is not belaboured or done in such a way as to condone and fuel the ‘us vs. them’ mentality. Castle paces his novel well with the parallel storylines working in conjunction with the dramatic build-ups throughout. Drawing the strong Castle/Rook parallels, Jameson Rook’s dry wit and silly humour bleed through the characters dialogue, perhaps the only thing that grates on my nerves to no end. Castle panders to a large cross-section of readers in this novel, entertaining as well as educating the masses as the series grows. A few twists should keep readers wondering until the next novel’s release, where much is left to be unveiled. I think I will check it out, if only to see what might be resolved.

Kudos, Mr. Castle for another decent novel. I can see this series working well as long as backstories continue to evolve over time.