Columbo (1971–2003)
40 user 11 critic

Murder by the Book 

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.


Steven Spielberg


Steven Bochco, Richard Levinson (created by) | 1 more credit »




Episode complete credited cast:
Peter Falk ... Columbo
Jack Cassidy ... Ken Franklin
Rosemary Forsyth ... Joanna Ferris
Martin Milner ... Jim Ferris
Barbara Colby ... Lilly La Sanka
Lynnette Mettey Lynnette Mettey ... Gloria Jr.
Bernie Kuby ... Mike Tucker
Hoke Howell ... Sergeant
Marcia Wallace ... Woman (credit only)
Haven Earle Haley Haven Earle Haley ... 2nd Reporter


One half of a murder-mystery writing team kills his more talented partner after the latter announces his intentions to go solo which would ultimately leave the former in financial ruin. Later a grocery store owner, who has important information pertaining to the case and has romantic desires for the killer, sees this incident as an opportunity to blackmail him into having a relationship with her. Feeling cornered, he kills her and tries to make it look like she'd fallen off a boat and drowned in a drunken stupor.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


TV-PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Martin Milner's character is married to Rosemary Forsyth's character. In real life, Rosemary Forsyth was romantically involved with Milner's good friend David Janssen. See more »


As one of his final lines, the murderer says the murder took place in accordance with a book idea that he told the victim five years ago. The victim even wrote it down. Hard to believe the victim could be fooled into that very same set up for his own murder. 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 »


Featured in Steven Spielberg and the Small Screen (2004) See more »


Love Theme from 'Red Sky At Morning'
Composed by Billy Goldenberg
Heard during the bar scene
See more »

User Reviews

Showed promise at an early stage - especially for the director.
26 August 2000 | by hisproSee all my reviews

Originally, this TV movie was only a curiosity to me. I purchased the video and found myself captivated to the brilliant plot written for TV by the then unknown Steven Bochco.

Even though the story does not stand to too much examining, as you know from the start who the murderer is and, because it IS an episode of "Columbo", you also know who will win in the end, it still is a very enjoyable movie with a stunning cast.

Early in his career, you can still tell who is directing just by the sheer artistry of the camera angles and placement of actors and props. Steven Spielberg's fingerprints are all over this movie, using techniques that he still uses today in his most recent movies.

I recommend that you watch it, just out of curiosity.

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Release Date:

15 September 1971 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Homicidio de acuerdo con el libro See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

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