Naked Heat by Richard Castle: B

From the front flap:
When New York’s most vicious gossip columnist, Cassidy Towne, is found dead, Heat uncovers a gallery of high-profile suspects, all with compelling motives for killing the most feared muckraker in Manhattan.

Heat’s murder investigation is complicated by her surprise reunion with superstar magazine journalist Jameson Rook. In the wake of their recent breakup, Nikki would rather not deal with their raw emotional baggage. But the handsome, wise-cracking, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer’s personal involvement in the case forces her to team up with Rook anyway. The residue of their unresolved romantic conflict and crackling sexual tension fills the air as Heat and Rook embark on a search for a killer among celebrities and mobsters, singers and hookers, pro athletes and shamed politicians.

This new, explosive case brings on the heat in the glittery world of secrets, cover-ups, and scandals.

In this second outing for “Richard Castle,” Detective Nikki Heat and her squad are working two cases—one the death of a produce delivery driver and the other the murder of Cassidy Towne, a gossip columnist with scads of powerful enemies. Magazine reporter Jameson Rook has been shadowing Towne, planning to pen a feature on her, so he provides information for the investigation. While leads are followed and the (lamentably somewhat obvious) conclusion pursued, Heat and Rook deal must also deal with the awkwardness resulting from their fairly recent breakup.

Although I definitely enjoyed Heat Wave, the first media tie-in mystery for the ABC show Castle, Naked Heat succeeds more as an independent entity. The characters are less obviously stand-ins for characters on the show, and though large portions of the investigation still remind me of the TV series, that’s not always a bad thing. For example, it’s rare that a mystery novel makes me giggle aloud, a feat that Naked Heat achieved several times (once by way of a Firefly reference).

The main characters really are the chief draw here. The mystery is better than in the prior book—at least, what I can remember of its mystery, which isn’t much—but still involves glitzy types like mobsters and pop stars, which I just can’t care about. A few intense action sequences spice up the narrative, but it also drags in places. The most compelling aspect of the story for me was the detectives’ negative reaction to Rook’s recently published profile of Heat—both because it portrayed her as the star of the squad while marginalizing the contributions of the others and because unwelcome publicity is now hounding her at every turn—and his realization of how his approach to the article affected its subjects. I found his contrition believable.

With this installment, I think the book series has proven itself capable of standing on its own. As I said before, it’s a rare mystery that can make me laugh. Though the book is definitely not without its flaws, at this point I think I can safely say that even if this series bore no relation to a TV show I happen to watch, I would probably enjoy it to the same degree.

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  1. So I was thinking about this tonight, since you posted your review, and I realized I’m totally unable to remember who did the murder. Sigh. It’s not even been 2 months.

    • Oh, that’s not good! I usually remember mystery plots fairly well, but perhaps I’ll forget this one too as completely as I forgot the one in Heat Wave. Well, I remember art forgery tied in somehow, at least.


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