Title: Frozen Heat
Author: Richard Castle (Heat Wave, Naked Heat, Heat Rises)
Page Count: 313
The Basics: New York City homicide detective Nikki Heat has been haunted for years by the one case she could never solve—her mother’s murder. When an old friend of her mother is found stabbed in the same brutal way, Detective Heat finds herself in the middle of an intricate web of secrets, betrayals, and international espionage. Along with investigative journalist Jameson Rook (her professional and romantic partner), she travels from the bright lights of Paris to the dark alleys of New York City, seeking the answers that have eluded her for over 10 years.
Strengths: The greatest strength of any of the Nikki Heat books is how well they relate to the TV show that inspired them. For those of you who don’t know: Richard Castle is not a real author; he just is one on TV. As the titular character on ABC’s hit procedural Castle, he is a novelist who initially consults on a murder case with Detective Kate Beckett, a woman who captivates him so much that he chooses to base a book series on her work and her life. The author is fake, but the books are real—a clever way for ABC to market the show.
The references to Castle are both obvious and surprisingly subtle. Fans will surely smile at the book’s dedication and acknowledgments, which feature touching and humorous callbacks to moments on the series. Throughout the novel, there are details that will make viewers very happy—from Nikki’s coffee order (which is the same as Beckett’s) to certain pieces of dialogue (“And if you’re crazy enough to keep going, I’m crazy enough to follow.”). The whole novel is also filled with a surprisingly emotional tone of respect for Nikki and the strength she has in dealing with such a personal case, which beautifully reflects how the character of Castle feels about Beckett and her struggles with her own mother’s unsolved murder.
The real test for how strong Frozen Heat is as a novel is whether or not people who have never seen an episode of Castle can enjoy it. As someone who is a dedicated (aka “borderline obsessive”) viewer of the show, I cannot give a personal answer to that question, but I definitely think Frozen Heat stands the best chance out of all the Nikki Heat novels to pass that particular test. The pacing of the novel is great; there are an abundance of little cliffhangers and entertaining twists that make it hard to put down. The plot is creative, the characters (especially Nikki) are ones we want to root for, and the dialogue is sharp. I also found myself getting almost as invested in the relationship between Nikki and Rook as I am in the relationship between their TV counterparts—and that’s saying something.
Weaknesses: Like the previous Nikki Heat books, I think the biggest problem people would have with Frozen Heat is its complicated backstory—not just in terms of the series of books but in terms of the TV series they’re based on as well. I honestly cannot answer if someone with no working knowledge of Castle as a show can enjoy these books as thoroughly as a fan. Some things would seem to make much more sense in the context of the show (like the dedication and acknowledgments as well as Nikki’s PTSD and therapy sessions). But sometimes being a part of the Castle fandom actually had an adverse effect on my reading experience; some references are so heavy-handed that they took me out of the novel momentarily (like the detectives named Malcolm and Reynolds). I’d be interested to hear what someone who reads the Nikki Heat books without watching Castle has to say about Frozen Heat.
My Favorite Passage: “In her living room in the solitude of the night she owned, Heat’s choice was to reflect on virtues and gifts…The new story she began went on like that, a tale of glasses that grew from half-full to brimming the more she composed it. It told her that laughter transcended, forgiveness healed, and music enkindled the coldest of hearts.”
Final Thoughts: I almost gave up on the Nikki Heat series after Heat Wave (because even as a Castle fan I can admit that was a terribly-written and even more terribly-edited book). After reading Frozen Heat, I’m so glad I stuck with these books. Each one has gotten better—both in writing style and in plot. For those like me who watch Castle religiously, this is a book that is sure to make you smile as you remember the episodes and characters that inspired both the big moments in the book and the smaller details. And for those that don’t, the plot of the novel is exciting enough to keep you guessing until the fabulous cliffhanger of an ending. Frozen Heat isn’t a perfect novel; the language is awkward in points, some characters are a little too flat for my liking, and a few scenes seemed clunky in their execution. However, it’s a fun novel with a strong female protagonist; a smart, sexy romance; and a plot that propels the book to true “page-turner” status.