Heat wave : Points for trying, but not as good as the show

Heat wave is apparently the first in a series of spin-off novels linked to the television show Castle. I really enjoy Castle. For those of you who are not viewers it’s about a male, Peter-Panish writer who teams with a female, methodical detective to solve crime. In the show, the writer (the eponymous Castle) has based the character in his newest book on the detective (Beckett).

And, in an interesting twist, the book has now been released. Its cover dress is just like in the television series, so it says “Richard Castle” on the front for the author, and the dedication is to the detective. It has positive spiel by the authors who show up in the series as Castle’s poker buddies.

The fun, as a viewer of Castle, is the play-within-a play aspect of the book. The relationship between Nikki Heat, the fictional version of the detective, and Jameson Rook, her writer sidekick, is completely under the control of Castle. So, Heat is more sexually promiscuous than Beckett, which we know from the TV series, but because of this she’s more  emotionally accessible  to her writer sidekick than in the TV versions of the characters.  There are some parts where the vanity of the Castle character is forced through, as in where Rook’s mother catches Heat checking him out, and they have a lengthy conversation concerning the excellence of his butt. So, that aspect, where you are ever-concious that Castle is the narrator, and as such you are plumbing his fantasy life, is a lot of fun.

As a stand-alone story, it doesn’t entirely work for me: it’s fine to read, but not really gripping in the way that a thriller should be, or intellectually captivating as a cozy mystery should be.  The characters aren’t developed much, because the point of them is to develop Castle’s character, and without the tie-in to the TV series, they would not be strongly enough described to stand alone.  Is that a fair criticism, though?  They are tied to a TV series.  I am a fan. Is it fair to say “were this not so, then…” when the whole point of the game is that they are?

A sub-plot in Heat wave is the potential of a relationship between Heat and Rook, who are, of course, proxies for Beckett and Castle. In this, is the author showing us, through the book, why the TV versions of the characters can’t really be together?  I don’t really agree with the point of view that espouses it, but many people seem to feel that as soon as the leads on these sorts of programs get together, then that’s the end of things.

Does this show I’m wrong in saying that the characters don’t develop, though?  Obviously they do, at least in the sense that they get around to this sort of thing in book one of the series, unlike, say, the Bones TV series where we are four years in and there’s still this “will they won’t they, when will they” business going on between Brennan and Booth.

I prefer episodes of the TV show to this novel. It wasn’t a bad read, and the metacontextual games were fun, for a fan, but I’d hesitate to recommend it to a general reader, when I could offer them something that gripped me more as a puzzle, or had more adrenaline in it.

Now that I’m done with Heat wave I’m reading The silent speaker by Rex Stout, which I was putting off.  It’s a better book than Heat wave.  Then again, The silent speaker is one heck of a book, so that may not be an acceptable standard of measurement.