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.
The police radio at both murder investigation scenes (Ken Franklin's house and Lilly LaSanka) is exactly the same. See more »
[Jim works in his office]
[knock on the door]
Who is it?
[another knock on the door]
[He opens the door - Ken is aiming a gun at his face. Jim laughs]
Oh, you're not intimidated.
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.
You're right. I'm a lousy practical joker.
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While I do enjoy a lot of the Columbo episodes I have seen, I find this early one to be a poor entry and probably the worst one of the entire series. It wasn't that the series needed to adjust itself; the first Columbo, 1967s "Prescription Murder," is one of the best. In "Murder By the Book," the story is slow, terribly predictable, and the damning piece of evidence that proves the killer's guilt is a clue thrown in at the last minute, as if the writers couldn't figure out how to finish the episode. In addition, young Steven Speilberg's rookie directing here tries to create a sort of suspenseful intensity throughout Columbo's entire investigation, instead of building intensity as the episode goes. "Prescription Murder" builds intensity wonderfully. Also, here the killer works annoying close with Columbo, making it obvious to anyone that he is guilty. A poor entry.
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