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Bookends: Two Mysteries for the Long Drive to the City December 29, 2013

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: Two Mysteries for the Long Drive to the CityHeat Wave

By Dan Davidson

March 25, 2013

– 837 words –


Heat Wave

By “Richard Castle”

Read by Johnny Heller

Tantor Media

6 hours 26 minutes


paperback edition


208 pages


The producers of the television show “Castle”, now in its fifth season, have produced a series of books ostensibly written by Nathan Fillion’s lead character, since it is the conceit of the show that Richard Castle is a novelist whose inspiration is the homicide squad which he shadows. Each season has produced a mystery novel, ghost written under the Castle name, and feeling very much like an extended episode of the series.

In the books a reporter named Jameson Rook is shadowing the squad led by Detective Nikki Heat (hence all the Heat related titles). Their relationship actually comes together quite a bit faster than the one in the series, where is took four years for Kate Beckett to succumb to Castle’s charms, but much of the rest of the action, plotting and repartee is quite similar to the series, and every major character has a print analogue.

Castle episodes often begin with the discovery of the body by some innocent bystander. In this case we have Detective Heat arriving at the scene of an apparent suicide. A Donald Trump-like real estate mogul has taken a dive from his sixth floor apartment building (causing Rook to quip “It’s raining men”) and left a very confusing state of affairs behind him.

His trophy wife is a former exotic dancer who has been “Henry Higgins’d” into a appropriate mate. He’s actually broke – way over extended in so many ways – and all that’s left is a fabulous art collection, which gets stolen part way through the story.

The story is told from Nikki Heat’s point of view. I was initially surprised that they didn’t use a female narrator, but then realized that this in “Castle’s” take on Heat’s viewpoint, so Johnny Heller makes sense. Besides that, he gives the book an excellent reading.
There’s mob involvement in the construction business fiasco. There’s Castle using his first name basis contacts to gain information about various aspects of the case. There’s the underlying tension between the two main characters, which persists even after their big night (which is described on the same pages as the TV show said it was on).

This isn’t a really strong book and not a very long one either, but it was entertaining and it made my latest drive to Whitehorse quite pleasant.

Mortal Stakes

Robert B. Parker

Mortal Stakes

Narrated by Michael Prichard


5 hours and 22 minutes

paperback edition


336 pages


I first met Spenser during a summer studying computer science in Nova Scotia. He was a break from the programming languages that everyone in the 1980s still thought we were going to need to know, just before the first Macintosh computers made it stunningly clear that we weren’t.

Now that Parker’s gone I’ve been running through the books again, this time in audio versions.

The Spenser novels are so short that they’ve hardly needed to be abridged, and MP3 downloads to a player eliminate that need completely. We started this one just outside Whitehorse and finished it as we were entering Fifth Avenue in Dawson.

As with many of Professor Parker’s novels, the title comes from a poem, this one by Robert Frost.

“Only where love and need are one,

“And the work is play for mortal stakes,

“Is the deed ever really done

“For heaven and the future’s sakes.”

There are definitely mortal stakes at play here.

This one starts out appearing of be an investigation into possible rigging of baseball games. Is Marty Rabb, the star Boston pitcher, throwing games, or shading the odds? Well, it turns out he is, but there’s a good reason and he’s under the sort of pressure that Spenser feels he needs to remove.

He does try very hard to avoid actually killing anyone, but in the end takes out two of the villains in a set up that gives them a very good chance of killing him if he doesn’t do things just right. And it bothers her greatly to have had to do that, but he is convinced that Marty and his wife, who made some bad choices (and maybe had little option) when she was younger, deserve the life they have made for themselves.

While Spenser spends more time with Brenda Loring in this book, Susan Silverman is mentioned a number of times, and it is to her that Spenser goes late in the story, after he has a arranged his questionable hit on the bad guys, and it is clear that this is the person he will end up with.

I’m of two minds about Michael Prichard’s reading. At the beginning of each novel he seems wooden and bland, but as the stories develop he seems to get more into the spirit of the thing and becomes more interesting as a reader.




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