Columbo (1971–2003)
39 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 »

On Disc

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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?


In an interview with film critic Judith Crist, Steven Spielberg revealed that, through his directorial efforts on this TV pilot, he went on to land the same role on Duel (1971). See more »


When Ken and Lilly are having champagne, they clink their glasses twice, but both times, the clinking noise comes before the glasses actually touch. 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 prime Columbo.
28 February 2002 | by yarboroughSee all my reviews

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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