Scott D. Parker
Anyone who knows me or has followed my blog knows I am a huge fan of the “Castle” TV show. I was crushed when, at the end of season seven, there was talk of cancellation. Then we got the glorious news that “Castle” would return for an eighth season. Was there anything better than more “Castle”? Well, if you watched season eight, you knew the answer to that question. Yes, sometimes more of something isn’t always a good thing.
The books by the heretofore unknown author behind the pen name of “Richard Castle” have almost all been uniformly excellent. Naturally, some are better than others, but on the whole, they are all very good books that capture the spirit of the television show as well as echoing and mirroring some of its contents. For example, when the TV show characters Castle and Beckett kept playing “will they or won’t they,” their counterparts in the novels — Jameson Rook and Nikki Heat – got together by the end of the first novel, HEATWAVE. So, for the first few years, readers got to see what it would have been like had Castle and Beckett got together. Now, with book eight, much of what clogged the eighth season of the television so has also clogged HIGH HEAT.
What am I saying? In short, I liked HIGH HEAT, but I certainly didn’t love it.
The novel opens with a scene that you could call ripped from the headlines. A group calling themselves American ISIS has released a video. In the video, a hooded victim is decapitated. As gruesome as the video is, what really chills the blood of Captain Nikki Heat is the final proclamation from the masked terrorists: their next victim is to be Jamison Rook, famous journalist and her husband.
Naturally, the crime is committed in the 12th precinct, and Heat and her squad jump into action. The victim is identified—no spoilers here—and they are well on their way to working out the case when the Feds show up. Guess what? The NYPD class with the Feds. Also as you might expect, Jamison himself is nowhere to be found. When last Nikki heard, the famous journalists was following one of the three presidential candidates, Legs Kline, the Donald Trump stand-in for the novel. For the record, there is a Hillary Clinton Stand in as well as third-party candidate Gary Johnson. Again, with the events of the novel mirroring real life, the author all but reveals his opinion of our own recently completed presidential election even though the book was readied for publication long before the results were counted.
The supporting cast are all back in this one. This little universe of Nikki Heat novels is pretty good. I have always enjoyed the stand-ins for the TV characters, but the ones unique to the Heat-verse are equally good. There is one aphorism that says the sum is greater than the whole. In other books in this series—NAKED HEAT especially—that is true. In the case of HIGH HEAT, I’d say the sum is just equal to the whole. All the ingredients are there and what is spat out is exactly what you’d expect. Nothing more, nothing less.
I listened to the audio version and Robert Petkoff, as he has done since he replaced original narrator Johnny Heller, does a good job of narrating with his ruggedly handsome voice. The way he reads the prose and delivers the dialogue, it really is as if Nathan Fillion AKA Richard Castle is reading the novel.
Oh, and if you hated season eight of the TV show, well, there’s a tangent in this book that, well, ugh. Don’t want to give too much away. There’s certainly going to be a ninth book in this novel series. I’ll certainly read it because I’ll consume everything related to Castle. And there’s an ingredient that literally shows up in the penultimate line of this novel. That alone will make Book 9 special. And, most importantly—and I fully expect this to happen—the ninth book, likely the last in the series, will give Castle fans, and Nikki Heat fans, true closure, the kind of closure we didn’t really get from the TV show.