Frozen Heat - Richard Castle Hovered between giving this one 2 stars or 3 stars. I wanted to like it, but there were just too many things about this book that didn't sit right with me.

First of all, even though I'm not regular viewer of Castle, I'm aware this series is ghost written and attributed to the fictional protagonist of that show. Therefore I understand how in some ways these books have to read like a TV show to appeal to the fans of said show. Frozen Heat, however, takes that to a whole other level. It felt like every single crime show trope, cliche and tension-building gimmick was unleashed for this novel, everything from one-in-a-million coincidences to prime-informant-dies-just-before-he-can-offer-up-his-case-breaking-lead.

I think part of the problem is that whoever wrote this was in way over their head. I mentioned in my review of the last book that the reason why I enjoyed it so much was because for the first time I felt that Nikki Heat was involved in something much bigger than herself. But as is often the case, moderation is key. Frozen Heat tried to be even better and bigger than book three, and while I give it A+ for effort, I felt the execution of those ideas could have used some work.

Don't get me wrong, I don't expect these kinds of books to be realistic to a T (since I consider them fun, fluff reads after all) but I do find I enjoy them much better when they're more plausible. Using book three as an example, it's one thing to present a mystery around corruption in the police force; the details are manageable and the resulting story is at least halfway convincing. This book on the other hand, attempting a realistic and believable story about international espionage, the CIA and secret spy networks? Let's just say that whoever wrote this, it seemed like all he or she knew about those topics came from James Bond and spy movies. At times, I also found it hard to take the story seriously or believe that a case so huge would have remained at the hands of an NYPD detective.

I also get that this book was perhaps trying to show a different side to Nikki Heat, but I'm not sure it's a side I like. The last three books paint her as a driven, confident, compassionate cop, and it's these qualities that endear her character to me. For the first half of this novel, however, I barely recognized her. She is impulsive, mean-spirited, dismissive, and careless. For example, we know that her tendency to check every lead no matter how small is what makes her such a great detective, so her refusal of Rook's suggestion to dig deeper in her past for clues seemed way out of character. I've also liked how she empathized and connected to the families of murder victims in the past books, and so her frigid and guarded behavior towards her own father was very bewildering. Also, knowing someone could be watching and listening to her every move, but still she doesn't take every step to secure key suspects and evidence, plus blithely walking into traps? Given the personal nature of the case she was working on, I guess all these inconsistencies to her character would make sense, but then she would also have been pulled off the case a long time ago.

Sad to say, but Rook hardly fared better. If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say they don't stick with the same ghost writer for these books, because personally I felt the writing style differed slightly from the last book, which I loved. In contrast, the prose in this book felt more awkward, and the dialogue more campy and forced. The result was that Rook also felt more clownish and juvenile, like whoever wrote him overdid it.

By now I've probably written more for this review than is warranted, but as usual I just wanted to get my thoughts out there, and explain why this latest installment disappointed me whereas I've greatly enjoyed all the previous books in the series so far.