On the one hand: this book is still up there in the “way too meta for me” category. On the other hand: one has to respect ABC for pulling out a book as a gimmick and a TV show promotion. Who does that anymore?
The book itself holds up better than the first one in the series as a novel. Sure, it’s still in-jokes from the series (the book’s first chapters are lifted pretty much straight from “Castle’s” season-three opener), and the basic plot is from a few episodes of season two. The murder is of a gossip columnist, which ends up being a triple murder/suicide. There are some nice twists and turns in the plot, and the outcome doesn’t really become obvious until nearly the end. It is plotted much more evenly as well; it is more character- and plot-driven, and relies less on the reader knowing the background of the show. This is a book I could see non-“Castle” fans picking up and actually liking on its own terms. That’s not to say there aren’t the jabs and in-jokes (in fact, what made me laugh the hardest was the moonlighting profession they assigned to Jameson Rook. Too, too perfect).
Additionally, it’s much less about wish-fulfillment on the part of Castle, the character, and more about getting the story across. In other words, Nikki comes off as more of a real character this time — she’s smart and resourceful (and remember that episode where Castle has Alexis duct-tape him to the chair? That’s important.) and while she does a lot of saving Castle’s butt (coming to his rescue at least twice), they’re also working more as a team than they did in the first book. The sex is dialed way back (though there are a couple of scenes; they are just briefer and less steamy), and it’s more about building an actual relationship between the two characters.
So, the real question now is whether or not there will be more books. On the show, they’ve kind of abandoned Castle’s premise for following Beckett around, and — if I remember right — he’s not done much writing during season three. So, is ABC going to keep churning out the Nikki Heat books if there’s no reference to them in the show? They could put out as many as they like independent of the TV show, but I think that the books lose much of their charm if you divorce them from the fun of the weekly episodes.
Either way, I’ll probably keep reading them until they stop being brain candy.
Rated: Moderate for one use of the f-word, two short and non-explicit sex scenes, and several other instances of mild swearing.