The Alpha Reads: The Nikki Heat Series

I have a bit of a history with Richard Castle. It began with the first time I saw episodes of Castle on ABC. The premise is simple. A novelist by the name of Richard Castle is caught up in a murder investigation when crime scenes are being carefully tailored to match the ones in his books. As a consequence, he comes into contact with Detective Kate Beckett, who is not only a longtime fan of the author, but soon becomes the muse for Castle’s latest series of books about a hard hitting New York City detective who goes the distance to keep the citizens of her city safe, working from the bullpen of the Twentieth Precinct: Nikki Heat.

Castle Fans of Murder She Wrote may be aware that the fictional Jessica Fletcher, who portrayed by Dame Angela Lansbery, also wrote novels based on the murders she inevitably became involved in solving, but was somehow never suspected of committing. Just like you can find those books in any retailer or library, the Nikki Heat series became a reality starting with the first book: Heat Wave

You can imagine Castle drawing inspiration from the characters on the show, as fans of the series realize that Jameson Rook is the stand-in for Castle himself. Captain Montrose, Detectives Raley and Ochoa, and Medical Examiner Lauren Parish are also loosely based on their “real life” counterparts in the series.

The illusion in the first couple of books is completed with blurbs from best selling authors, and front matter with the copyright assigned to Richard Castle.

If you’ve never watched Castle, don’t worry. Readers of the series will find a fast paced story, with carefully woven subplots, well rounded characters, and what I can only describe as a stack of love letters to New York City. With the exception of having a slightly similar backstory to Kate Beckett, the comparison stops there as Nikki Heat takes on a life of her own, as do Jameson Rook and the rest of the cast.

Naked Heat picks up where the previous book left off. Nikki deals with the sudden surge of recognition that resulted from Rook Jameson’s article, there’s a coyote loose in Manhattan, a garbage strike, and a murder. One of the amazing things about this series is the ability to combine so many elements to bring the world to life around the characters.

Heat Rises contains the first of what will eventually be a series of subtle and not so subtle references to Firefly. If you ask anyone in the geek community who Nathan Fillion is, and you don’t get a clear response, then you’re probably asked the question in English to a non-English speaker. Because it’s not a stretch to imagine that Jameson Rook is the spitting image of Richard Castle (confirmed later on in the Derrick Storm novels, which I will cover in another post) who is portrayed by the Fillion, the references to Firefly are pretty self-explanatory.

They do get gratuitous however, especially in Frozen Heat and again in Deadly Heat when the Homicide Division brings on a pair of detectives from Burglary named Malcolm and Reynolds to help with the caseload.

Deadly Heat and Raging Heat are also where things take a downward turn in terms of quality. I wrote about this in my other blog, but to recap, the editing mistakes in this book are just not acceptable when you consider the price they’re asking you to pay for the book in hardcover. The story is great and everything else holds up, but when you consider how many amateur authors out there think that they can get away with abusing the rules of grammar and expect a million dollar publishing contract, it makes you wonder how much the people behind this book care about you as the consumer.

Well, obviously someone heard me because the most recent book in the series, which I just finished about an hour before I began writing this post, was Driving Heat. Great, fast paced read, with a mystery that had me glued to the pages, trying to solve it before the detectives did. They dialed back the Firefly references by about a thousand, and there was just a tiny pinch of editing mistakes that could be forgiven.

The Nikki Heat series may be written by an equally fictitious writer. I secretly hope they reveal the ghostwriter behind the series, but in the meantime, I go with my original sentiment: This is a TV tie-in series done right.

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