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
Lynette Mettey Lynette Mettey ... Gloria Jr. (as Lynnette Mettey)
Bernie Kuby 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 »






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 »

Did You Know?


Lilly LaSanka states that she was taught to cook by her husband, who was a cook as a merchant marine. This is an in-joke as being a cook in the merchant marine was one of Peter Falk's jobs before he became an actor. See more »


Before Columbo begins to grate cheese, he grabs a bowl from the cabinet to put the cheese in. The bowl already has grated cheese in it. 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 »

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User Reviews

Not a well planned murder
29 July 2012 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

Interesting that the very first Columbo episode with Jack Cassidy as the murderer was one of the less successful dramatically in my humble opinion. Because of that it convinces me more than ever that the series and the character were sold brilliantly to the television audience by Peter Falk.

Cassidy plays half of the mystery writing team of Cassidy and Martin Milner and does this guy have one hell of a racket. Milner is the creative one and Cassidy gets half the royalties by just doing the public relations with the newspapers, the TV and Radio talk shows, all that stuff with all the fringe benefits coming with it.

Well the gravy train has now come to an end because Milner wants to go out on his own. You would think that Cassidy would want the last thing to be Milner's demise because he would still hope for reconciliation. What he does do though is take out a hefty insurance policy on Milner and proceed with an elaborate murder plot.

If anything this Columbo episode proved Milner really was the creative one because he is the obvious suspect. The insurance policy and his deliberate deception with phone calls placed are traced easily enough and don't ring true. And above all he gets himself blackmailed by the owner of a general store played by Barbara Colby and has to do another and less planned murder. For a guy so arrogant as Cassidy was and he set a pattern for Columbo villains he really botched this one.

The late Barbara Colby whose career and life came so tragically to an end only a few years later, she plays an interesting if spaced out character. Her scenes with Cassidy are the best part of this episode.

Still though Columbo would face far more deceptive villains in the future.

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