As a fairly straight-forward work of mystery fiction, THREE STARS. People are murdered, clues are discovered, twists and turns, a narrow escape, a revelation, a sudden dead-end, kissy kissy, frantic chase, mystery solved, wait or is it?, ok now yes, mystery solved. Or something like that? I don't know. That's not the part I was paying attention to.
BECAUSE as a cultural artifact that is such an engaging, layered and thoughtful piece of fan-fiction that I could barely even wrap my head around it, FOUR STARS.
Nathan Fillion plays a TV character named Richard Castle. Richard Castle is in love with Kate Beckett but it never really amounts to anything on the TV show. Which is great! It's what makes TV work--the wanting it to happen, but not having to deal with the inevitable boring Sam & Diane consequences. But the character Richard Castle has written a book inspired by Kate Beckett, called Naked Heat, and in Naked Heat, Castle's stand in, Jameson Rook, totally gets it on with Beckett's stand in, Nikki Heat. Of course, the book wasn't really written by Richard Castle or Nathan Fillion, we don't know who it's written by. So, like, either it's officially-sanctioned fanfic, which is brilliant, or ABC just gave someone in marketing a bunch of money and said "Uh, do...something?" which is even more impressive.
Because yes, it's a marketing gimmick, ha ha, the TV author actually has books you can read, and there are pictures of Nathan Fillion on the back. But like, is this really going to convince anyone to watch the show? Doubtful! And is it going to sell millions and millions of copies and become a secondary source of revenue for the production company? Probably not! So it's really kind of a fun little shippy love note from the show to the fans. Which is amazing! Like fanfic finally won one, you know? The book opens up a whole window on this alternate universe that the show won't let us have, but that fans of the show think about and want desperately. Yes we do want it desperately, we want to see Nathan Fillion making out with Stana Katic.
But that's not all! There is other interesting stuff happening here! Inside the in-game of the fake book written by the fake TV character, this is another in-game! And it's the ghost-writer commenting on their lot in life.
Firstly, there's a part early on where detectives get compared to ghostwriters. Not a metaphor you read everyday, or a reference you generally see in a book that is clearly ghostwritten. My ears perked up.
Then we find out something interesting about Jameson Rook. On the show, Richard Castle is a noted mystery author who hangs out with other noted authors. But Jameson Rook--even though he has the same voice and persona as Richard Castle--is NOT a noted author. He's a magazine writer, who also, it is revealed, happens to ghost-write romance novels.
There are a bunch of jokes about this, and a bunch of embarrassment on Rook's part about the true nature of his/the author's work. Wouldn't it have been so much easier for either Richard Castle or the author to just use the same backstory for Jameson Rook that we have for Richard Castle? None of the other book characters diverge so wildly from their TV counterparts. Weird, right? (Never even mind the part where Nikki Heat has read and liked Jameson Rook's steamy ghostwritten romance fiction, which adds a whole other layer of sexy, shippy, fan-fic-ness that I can't even deal with.)
BECAUSE! AND THEN! There's this blink and miss it part towards the end where Jameson Rook goes off to do some investigating in the company of Detectives Malcolm and Reynolds. And that was when I completely lost my shit. FIVE STARS. THIS AUTHOR KNOWS THEIR AUDIENCE.
I am someone who a) writes things about TV characters, and b) watches Castle. And I thought this must be such an impossibly small and targeted Venn diagram for a book like this. But maybe it's not? Maybe the person whose idea this was just knows their audience really extremely well. Because for people like us, a book like this is our Ulysses and our Waiting for Godot and our Hamlet. This is shit that we will talk about and talk about and talk about.
Dear Whoever Wrote This: Look, I know there's some contract you had to sign or something to keep your identity hidden. I don't care what else you've written, whether it's magazine articles or romance novels or what, I'm just saying I really like the cut of your jib, and I want to read everything else you've done. Please.