Crashing Heat (Nikki Heat #10), by Richard Castle

Seven stars

In the latest instalment of the Nikki Heat series, Richard Castle continues to weave interesting tales about his two protagonists, while peppering the narrative with an entertaining mystery. Still enjoying married life, NYPD Captain Nikki Heat and Jameson Rook are at an awards ceremony, though they itch to find a private place to ‘express their love’. After Rook wins another award for his gritty journalism, he and Heat must come to terms with the fact that he will be leaving for upstate New York on a teaching assignment for a semester. Before they can lament this, burgeoning journalism student Chloe Masterson comes to express excitement that he will be one of her academic and journalistic mentors in the coming weeks. Loving the attention, Rook promises to touch base with her while he is there, glad to have a fan hanging on his every word. After Heat and her team get a case, Rook agrees to stay in touch, making his way out of town. Heat is surprised to hear from him so soon afterwards, though it is anything but good news. Rook appears to have come into contact with local law enforcement, after young Chloe’s naked body showed up in his bed, murdered. Heat drops everything and heads to help her husband, not asking the obvious question that burns in her mind. When Heat arrives at the local precinct, there is quite the surprise awaiting her, one that will stretch the understanding she and Rook have with one another. Bound and determined to clear Rook’s name, Heat begins working with the locals to uncover what Chloe Masterson may have been investigating and how Rook could possibly be involved. In a case that will take Rook back to his student days, Heat must find a way to explain what’s happened to the victim and exonerate her husband, while also trying to see if their relationship is as strong as she thought. Sometimes the greatest secrets reveal much about a person, as Rook and Chloe know all too well. Corny at times in its delivery, this is a decent addition to the Heat series, one Castle has been building over the last number of years. Recommended for those who want a quick read in the mystery genre, as well as fans of the series.

There is the old adage that one should never compare books to their cinematic interpretations. The same can be said about books and their respective television shows. I was a fan of the Castle program when it aired, waiting for a new book to drop each season to see how it tied into the storyline. However, I became a little startled about just how corny and cheesy the books became, particularly as the love interests of the books’ protagonists paralleled those on the show. Stepping back, I can see that these books are pure entertainment and that tying myself up in knots can only serve to annoy me, rather than allow me to fully enjoy what is going on. Nikki Heat has climbed the NYPD ladder for the past number of books, having secured a spot as captain. Her ascent has been well documented and based on courage and merit, something that she brings to work on a daily basis. Her abilities are great, though she could not do it without the help of her author sidekick and husband, Jameson Rook. Turning to the affable and punny Rook, there is something about his worldliness that helps solve cases, though he is able to grate on the reader’s nerves without trying. Rook seeks to show just how in touch he is with things, even when he is the one in the hot seat. The handful of other regulars almost take a backseat in this one, particularly because the central case is out of NYC. Still, Castle peppers the story with some interesting one-offs, none more than someone from Heat’s long-ago past. The reader may enjoy some of the banter that ensues, though it barely covers some of the cheesy dialogue that serves to help ensure one’s eyes are still able to roll upwards. The idea for the book was decent, offering something for the reader to enjoy, though the stories do not lend themselves to being blockbusters. A good read, as long as the reader knows what they are getting themselves into. Perfect for beach or travel reading, with just a touch of audible sighing.

Kudos, Mr. Castle, for a great addition to your series. It served the purpose I hoped it would and for that I am ever grateful.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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Heat Storm (Nikki Heat # 9), by Richard Castle

Seven stars

Returning for another instalment of the Nikki Heat series, readers will be graced with the added bonus of a full Derrick Storm novel as well, showing the Richard Castle is able to juggle two of his protagonists in this high-flying piece of light fare. Away from the fast pace of China’s cities, Derrick Storm is in the middle of uncovering a counterfeit operation that could have significant implications in the United States. It would seem someone is laundering large amounts of US money from somewhere in China. Storm escapes with a single CD, which could hold a number of truths to bring down a group known only as the Shanghai Seven. Meanwhile, in New York, Nikki Heat is still reeling with the knowledge that her mother is alive after being presumed dead and cremated seventeen years before. However, Cynthia Heat remains on the lam, from whom, no one is quite sure. Nikki receives numerous cryptic texts from a man using the moniker, The Serpent, warning her that recent brushes with death may one day not miss their mark. As Nikki tries to work through this news, Derrick Storm appears stateside with some information that could tie Cynthia Heat to a CIA operation in China and the counterfeit operation he has been running. Storm is also being chased, presumably by the Shanghai Seven, who want their disc back. Armed with his wits and retired father, Carl, Storm seeks to battle his way to safety. Heat discovers something her mother left for her, a clue that could tie-in with the Derrick Storm fiasco. All the while, Heat’s husband and the annoying aspect of this book series, Jameson Rook, appears to woo his wife away from all the panic that is going on. While she seeks to rebuff him for a time, she cannot deny his wiles, which only makes for a cheesy collection of moments throughout the narrative. Can Nikki and Storm clear the way for a Heat reunion? Might the Shanghai Seven be topped by beheading The Serpent? All this and more awaits the reader, with a chance that this might be the swan song for Castle’s published writing career. Fans of the series and cancelled television show may like this piece, though others might want to read it to close the door once and for all.

I am not normally a bitter person when it comes to reading. I realise that sometimes books are written to entertain on a lighter level and can accept that. However, there has been something about the last few novels (and the latter seasons of the television show) that irked me enough to tune out. I want to enjoy them, from the fast pace of the storylines and the interesting character developments, but find myself feeling short-changed. It is hard to divorce the characters from the book with those I saw on the small screen, though I try by best. Nikki Heat is surely a climber within the NYPD, working hard to solve cases and putting her eventual passion for Jameson Rook to the side. The revelation about her mother being alive allowed the reader to tap into more flashback memories about Heat’s childhood, though they are muddled between trying to find The Serpent and the off-putting Jameson Rook’s reappearance to woo her between the sheets. Derrick Storm is given some wonderful development here, tapping into not only his youth, but pulling the elder Mr. Storm into the mix to offer familial comparisons. Castle does well to weave this into the story, providing some interesting banter as well as strong character development throughout the piece. Utilising a number of interesting supporting characters, Castle pushes the story forward and keeps the reader wondering what awaits. The story found herein is not weak, though there were times that I wanted things to get moving. Storm’s storyline kept things interesting, but still I found things dragged throughout. I try not to get too cynical, but I did notice I was waving my hand in a circular motion, hoping to push the narrative along so that I could reach the end. Might it have been knowing that there was little left to read in order to put this series to bed? Quite possibly, but I am not willing to waste too much of my time waiting when I have so many other books to devour. I liked the Heat series, don’t get me wrong, but there comes a time when pulling the proverbial parachute is in order. This was surely the time for Castle, as television executives did recently as well.

Kudos, Mr. Castle, for a valiant effort to tie off some loose strings. I have enjoyed the series, but am sure you, as a fictional front for a ghost writer, will now disappear into the annals of time and enjoy fictional retirement.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons