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 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:

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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 »

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 »


After Ken (Jack Cassidy) gets the call about his writing partner's murder, he leaves his cabin and goes over to the trunk of his car. In the lower right portion of the frame, the shadow of a boom mic is visible. 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 Spielberg (2017) 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

"It's a cinch you have never cheated on Joanna before...."
13 January 2002 | by Jake ThingraySee all my reviews

A terrific start to the series, and I'm not just saying this because of its director: he'd have done a great job on this even if his name was Joe Nobody. Spielberg's cool, clipped way of creating an air of menace, through constant anticipations (not for nothing does the opening panning shot include a skull on Ferris' table) in the opening sequences should be required viewing at film schools. He still permits the classic character conflict to evolve in the later, less firmly paced stages: even inserting a signature (reflected in E.T. and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS) of officials loudly creating fuss and sidelining the vulnerable, in the scene at the Ferris home just before Columbo appears. Jack Cassidy, unfairly only really remembered today as the father of teen idol David, is on splendid, autocratically smarmy form here, as a mystery writer who can't write, but knows how to play the media. His staring eyes and coldly composed face as he points the gun at the camera, for the second time, are unforgettable. As ever, Falk charms in his down-to-earth manner, complaining of the cold - "there's no lining on this coat" - and helping out the distressed Mrs. Ferris in the kitchen. (A shame that Rosemary Forsyth is saddled with a line like, "I know Ken, he's not a murderer", though.) The music, more than slightly reminiscent of Bernard Herrmann's score for PSYCHO, is another eerie advantage. All in all, a shame that Falk's plan to get Spielberg to direct COLUMBO's return to TV, in 1989, came to nothing........

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