Columbo: Season 1, Episode 1

Murder by the Book (15 Sep. 1971)

TV Episode  |   |  Crime, Drama, Mystery
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 2,075 users  
Reviews: 29 user | 8 critic

When one member of a mystery writing team wants to break from his less talented partner, he becomes the victim in a real-life murder mystery.



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Episode complete credited cast:
Ken Franklin
Joanna Ferris
Jim Ferris
Barbara Colby ...
Lilly La Sanka
Lynette Mettey ...
Gloria Jr. (as Lynnette Mettey)
Bernie Kuby ...
Mike Tucker
Woman (credit only)
Haven Earle Haley ...
2nd Reporter


Ken Franklin is a rich socialite living in a luxurious coastal mansion bought from his years in connection to a series of popular crime and mystery books written entirely by his business partner. He turns his one and only original idea for fiction into reality as he murders his exiting partner to maintain his lifestyle and then desperately tries to cover up his crime due to a blackmailing witness. Columbo arrives on the scene to begin pestering his suspect with questions about the murder. Mr. Franklin soon realizes that no murder is perfect, and his own clever plot may return to haunt him. Written by Scott Dawson <> / revised by statmanjeff

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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Parents Guide:





Release Date:

15 September 1971 (USA)  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The portrait of Mrs. Melville, prominently featured in "Murder By The Book", makes a cameo appearance on the back wall of the meeting room at the Sigma Society in Columbo: The Bye-Bye Sky High I.Q. Murder Case (1977). See more »


The writing partnership produced 15 Mrs. Melville books, but when Ken gives Columbo the books to take home, there are only 10. When Columbo brings them back when Ken is being interviewed, he comes with 14, and when they are piled on the table during the climactic office scene, there are 16. See more »


[first lines]
[Jim works in his office]
Jim Ferris: [knock on the door] Who is it?
[another knock on the door]
Jim Ferris: [He opens the door - Ken is aiming a gun at his face. Jim laughs]
Ken Franklin: Oh, you're not intimidated.
Jim Ferris: Oh, come on, Ken. You're forgetting that I'm one-half of the world's greatest mystery-writing team? You, ah, don't have gloves on, your finger's not on the trigger, and there are no bullets in the cylinder.
Ken Franklin: [smiling] You're right. I'm a lousy practical joker.
See more »


Love Theme from 'Red Sky At Morning'
Composed by Billy Goldenberg
Heard during the bar scene
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User Reviews

The best of the best in the Columbo series
2 July 2009 | by (Washington, DC) – See all my reviews

Casting Jack Cassidy as Ken Frankin was sheer brilliance. Cassidy personified arrogance, confidence, charm and wit - all with a condescending, evil little smirk on his face. In my opinion, Jack Cassidy is by far the best murderer (having appeared three times) in the Columbo series. This particular (and first) performance, is my favorite Columbo episode ever - hands down. A fresh faced Steven Spielberg did amazing camera work (yes, there were a couple of camera shadows on the actors at times)capturing the nuances and banter at different and intriguing angles between Columbo and Franklin. Also, the panoramic and tight in shots at Big Bear Lake, CA (Franklin's cabin home) were very impressive.

If you have not yet seen this episode, then you owe it to yourself to do so - it's a true masterpiece.

Jack Cassidy was a very talented actor and singer. His charismatic personality was highly infectious. His death in 1976, at age 49 was very sad and indeed very tragic - he surely had his best years ahead of him. Rest in Peace Jack, you will live on for eternity through your great work.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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