Naked Heat (Nikki Heat vol. 2)

by Richard Castle

“Your theory is interesting, except for one flaw.”
“Which is?”
“I wasn’t listening.”

A gossip columnist has been murdered and Nikki is assigned to the case. She and Rook are on the outs since his article about the department, which ended up being essentially about her, embarrassed the detective and generally pissed everyone off. But their paths cross over the course of the investigation and they end up working together again, whether they like it or not, and the same tension we loved in the show is again present here.

Naked Heat is another great mystery novel involving celebrities, sports stars, politicians, lawyers, hitmen and various other criminals. The body count rises as a mysterious killer tortures and murders his victims looking for a piece of evidence relating to the death of the columnist, but there’s a lot more to the story than a simple murderer on the loose, and there’s plenty of guilt to spread around.

This 2nd installment of the Nikki Heat books is a significantly more complicated murder mystery than its predecessor, a fact that causes the first half of the book to read a little slower than expected. A number of thrilling, set piece scenes including an excellent motorcycle chase rocket things forward at just the right times and the threads of the story combine wonderfully at the novel’s end to leave things on a high note.

There are some recognizable moments carried over from the show working on a different level. In one episode of Castle a body was stolen at gunpoint out of a transporting hearse, and Richard Castle used that incident for a similar setup here in Naked Heat. At another point Richard Castle had his daughter duct tape him to a chair so he could figure out how to escape, which he eventually did, and he used some of that experience in writing Nikki Heat’s escape from her own taped-to-the-chair-to-be-tortured scene. It’s a particular brand of satisfaction seeing the research Castle was doing working with Kate Beckett actually make it into his Nikki Heat novels. Even Detective Schlemming, based on rival love interest Detective Demming at Beckett’s 12th precinct, makes it into the story in an amusing anecdote.

As a big fan of the show’s characters it’s nice to see the Nikki Heat/Jameson Rook duo and their two main detective sidekicks Ochoa and Raley living on after the cancellation of the show. This second installment reads just a bit uneven but its complexity, panicked adrenaline moments and faithful adherence to our beloved characters add up to a sum equal to or greater than the excellent Heat Wave.

“First of all, never pull a stunt like that again. And second? Thanks for having my back.”
“Sorry and you’re welcome,” he said as he turned and left.

4- stars

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