The last time we looked in on Nikki Heat, gorgeous NYPD homicide cop, she and her ride-along author-with-benefits Jameson Rook (as handsome as Nikki is hot) had finally penetrated the skein of lies surrounding Nikki’s most challenging cold case – the murder of Cynthia Heat, Nikki’s mother, when the girl was a teen. Not only did Heat finger her mom’s then-current lover as the villain, she also uncovered a CIA “nanny network” of domestic employees spying on their bosses – and Mama Heat, freelance piano teacher, was one of their nest. She also learned that Cynthia’d been murdered when her handler went rogue - she just didn’t learn why.
As Deadly Heat opens, Heat and Rook, when they're not busy between the sheets, find themselves chasing Tyler Wynn, the man who’d ordered Nikki’s mother killed before faking his own death. Unfortunately, Heat’s day job interferes with her favorite cold case, as a serial killer stalks the mean streets of Manhattan. Nicknamed the “Rainbow Killer” by the media, the villain adds a touch of whimsy to his brutality: a snippet of colored string left tied to a clue about his next planned murder is his signature. At each corpse the cops find a new colored strand, ergo the “rainbow.”
Nikki, forced to liaise with the FBI about her mother’s case (oops: one of the Feebs is a Rook ex-lover), finds herself reconnecting with her mother’s former piano students. Naturally, the rainbow guy continues to escalate, even taunting Heat and her squadron of homicide dicks. When Heat stumbles into yet another plot - this one so evil it makes her serial killer look like an adolescent cat-torturer - all else is placed on hold.
Not to be denied, her Rainbow Killer has something nasty up his sleeve…
Nikki Heat novel number five from fictional author Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion on TV and at book signings), Deadly Heat opens at the cliffhanger conclusion of number four, Frozen Heat. This installment bears the usual uncanny resemblance to popular ABC TV show “Castle,” where Fillion plays Richar Castle (the Jameson Rook character) opposite Stana Katic as Kate Beckett, on whom the fictional Nikki Heat is modeled. Basing a fictional character on a fictional character just plain makes my head hurt …
Like the rest of the series books Deadly Heat is believed to be the product of veteran TV writer Tom Straw, which might explain why series novels read so much like television scripts. After all, each chapter is lasts about eight or nine minutes and ends with a little cliffhanger. That’s not to mention that the plot has about the subtlety of a YA novel.
It’s long been common for mystery writers to involve their protagonists in two seemingly unrelated cases (see anything by Sue Grafton or Perri O’Shaughnessy), and it’s also common for the cases to merge by the last chapter. In decades of mystery novels, though, this reader has never seen two plotlines kludged together so ham-handedly as occurs in Deadly Heat. Not only are the cases so obviously unrelated, it stretches disbelief to see villain #2 shoehorned into case #1 so sloppily. And for so accomplished a detective, Heat is surprisingly easily tricked by the villains. All that’s strangely uncharacteristic given Nikki’s backstory, necessitating a chain of clues delivered deus ex machina style to get her back on track.
Deadly Heat is as saccharine as the television version of Rook/Castle; but it also has pretty much the depth of an average bodice-ripper. I recommended it only to diehard fans of the TV series, and readers who won’t be upset by a lack of plot depth.