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Cassandra Mortmain, the narrator of this story, lives in a crumbling old castle with her beautiful but self-centred sister Rose, her younger brother Thomas, her remote (and frankly very unlikeable) father, her eccentric but hugely likeable stepmother Topaz, and Stephen, a young man who lives with the family and looks after the castle for them.  They are penniless, and often struggle even to eat half-decent meals; all their decent furniture has been sold, and things don’t look likely to get any better.  Nonetheless, they somehow rub along together and seem happy enough.  Their quiet little life changes completely with the arrival of American brothers Simon and Neil – suddenly there seems to be a way out of poverty, but things are never quite as simple as they appear.  And everything that happens is faithfully recorded by Cassandra in her journal, which forms this novel.

I have mixed feelings about this book.  I really really enjoyed the first half, and thought that it may well turn into an all-time favourite.  Cassandra was witty and funny – clearly an intelligent narrator, but still charmingly naive.  The way she described certain events made me laugh out loud, and it was very easy to picture what she was writing about.  In the second half of the book, things took a slightly more angst turn.  I’m not about to give away any spoilers, but suffice to say that Cassandra went through a lot of emotions, and all of them are described here – sometimes it felt like they were described time and time again!  At this point, the humour took something of a back seat.

The characters were all very well depicted, and for the most part were likeable.  Certainly Cassandra herself was very endearing, and I also warmed to Topaz and Thomas.  However, the father of the house was not just remote with his family, but sometimes downright horrible to them – I desperately wanted his wife Topaz to kick him into touch, but sadly most of his behaviour was tolerated – almost to the point of encouragement – by his family.

What is worth mentioning though is the ending.  Without telling what happens, I will say that I thought I knew exactly where this book was going, and when I did reach the end, I was genuinely surprised, and very pleased as the ending I had imagined was not one I would have liked.

Overall, I would say that there is plenty to enjoy here, but most of the giggles are definitely to be found in the first half of the book.  I’m not sure I would ever read it again, but I’m certainly not disappointed that I picked it up in the first place.

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This book is a tie-in to the ABC tv series ‘Castle’ – but not your usual kind of tie-in.  In that show, celebrity author Richard Castle tails NYPD Detective Kate Beckett and her team, in order to research his latest crime series.  He bases his character Nikki Heat on Beckett, and releases a number of Nikki Heat books.  This book is the first one in that series, so in effect it is a book written by a fictional character! (The identity of the actual author of the books is a closely guarded secret.)

The way it’s done is very clever, complete with an author photo of Richard Castle (actually Nathan Fillion, who portrays him on the show), and in his acknowledgements he thanks both the fictional characters and the actors on the show.

The story of the book revolves around the death of property mogul Matthew Starr.  There are no shortage of suspects as Nikki and her colleagues, including Jameson Rook (the character which Castle bases on himself) investigate the murder, and Nikki finds herself in danger as she works to uncover the truth.

It’s hard to review this book without connecting it to the tv series.  It could be read as a straightforward crime thriller, even if the reader had never seen the show.  However, I think fans of the show (and I count myself among their number) will probably get more out of it, as the characters in the show all have counterparts in the book, and I found myself hearing their voices in my head as I read the story.

I definitely enjoyed the book.  It moves along at a rapid pace, and certainly captures the atmosphere of New York City.  I was kept guessing right until the end, and there were enough twists and turns to make it difficult to predict what was going to happen.

And for fans of the show – the much-referred to sex scene between Heat and Rook is in the book, and does indeed happen on page 105, just as stated in the show!

Overall, an enjoyable read – I will definitely read the subsequent books in the series.

(‘Author’s’ website can be found here.  For more information on the tv show, please click here.)

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