Wednesday, May 12, 2010


By Mark W. Danielson

Not since Murder She Wrote has there been a television mystery show worthy of mention. This is the second season for Castle, but I didn’t start watching until this year. The premise is a successful and debonair mystery writer Rick Castle is allowed to shadow attractive, intelligent female Homicide Detective Kate Beckett, much to her dismay. The chemistry between these characters is as brilliant as the script. Castle uses his writer’s intellect to think like criminal and detective to assist in the apprehension of the killer. Sure, sometimes things conveniently come together, but hey, it’s only an hour show, and each episode is unique. The good news is you don’t have to have watch every week to keep up.

Mind you, I’m not shunning my writing and flying careers to become a television critic, but this show is of interest to every mystery novelist. Its concepts are fresh, the characters are believable and likeable, and the twists are entertaining. In other words, Castle is a great example of how good mystery novels should read, and that’s why I recommend it to every mystery writer. Castle airs on Monday nights at 9 Central; 10 Pacific/East Coast time.

While watching, writers should pay attention to the show’s pacing, how its characters interact, and why it keeps your interest. The casting is superb, and the writers do an amazing job in creating believable, witty scripts. If its viewers don’t care about the characters, Castle would be off the air. Instead, it has been renewed for a third season.

Novels share the same elements as Castle. It matters not who writes a novel, if the story doesn’t grab me within the first couple of chapters, I’ll put it down, even if I’m trapped on an airliner with nothing better to do. (To clarify, I’m referring to when I’m flying as a passenger, not when I’m piloting the airplane.)

Castle includes enough humor to get a laugh, but is still serious enough to be a convincing murder investigation. In a recent episode, the victim dies from a vat of liquid nitrogen being poured on him. When someone checks for a pulse, his hand breaks off – and it’s so well done, it’s funny. Of course, they throw in a few jokes, too, but that is also appropriate. You see, “black humor” keeps law enforcement officers sane in otherwise dismal situations. Ambulance and fire crews share this humor for the same reasons. (For example, a firefighter remarks to a fellow firefighter about a dead victim being extra crispy – the way he likes them. Sure, it may seem sick, but it also relieves tension and eases the task of removing charred bodies.)

If you enjoy writing about murder, then give Castle a look. You might just learn a thing or two.


Jean Henry Mead said...

I love "Castle." I also just started watching this season and it's one of the few TV shows I watch on a regular basis. The chemistry between Rick and Kate prevents the show from becoming just another cop show. And, of course, the mystery writer angle makes the show especially interesting.

Ben Small said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I'll check it out. I hadn't heard of it, but I rarely watch television series. One I do watch is JUSTIFIED, starring Timothy Oliphant as a U.S. Marshal transferred back home while a Miami shootout involving him is being investigated. It's got great characters, interaction and pacing, too. JUSTIFIED is on FX.

Mark W. Danielson said...

I saw one episode of Justified and liked it, too. It's nice to see there are actually a fresh few shows worth watching.

Beth Terrell said...

I've been a fan of Nathan Fillian ever since FIREFLY, but I haven't managed to catch CASTLE. The premise seemed so utterly unbelievable I just couldn't watch it. Obviously, I need to rethink that and TIVO a couple of episodes.