Book Critique – The Columbo Collection

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: As much as the movies have enchanted, entertained and charmed the viewers, the book did the same to the readers, bringing the rumpled raincoat and cigar holding lieutenant to life. 

The Columbo Collection is indeed a collection of 12 brilliant new stories in which while murders try to get away only to come up against our rumpled raincoat detective, Lieutenant Columbo. Written by William Link it was first published in March of 2010.

I have always been open on how much I love Columbo, the American crime drama television series that aired between 1968 and 2003 on TV. Several reviews of books, movies and tv shows that I wrote about have mentioned Columbo in them. I even wrote a piece dedicated to Columbo and his very first pilot Prescription: Murder too back in 2017.

So it is only natural that I would buy a book with Columbo stories when I happen to come cross at a book sale. Wouldn’t I? ;) And now for my take on these stories.

William Link is the co-creator of both Columbo and Murder, She Wrote TV shows, both of which I happen to love a lot. Columbo was introduced in a 1960 episode of The Chevy Mystery Show titled "Enough Rope", with Bret Freed portraying the role of Columbo, the very first actor to do so. 

After that one episode, Link and Levinson created a theater drama starring Joseph Cotton as Columbo with the title "Prescription: Murder" that ran for a year and a half before Columbo even had his own show in 1968, 8 years after the first time he was conceived. The show went on to get 13 Emmys and two Golden Globe awards among other awards and nominations. Impressive run I must say.

The central notion of creating Columbo was around the fact that the viewers already know who the murderer is, what the motive was and how it was committed. And the detective comes in after, figuring out the killers steps and finally proving it. A novel idea when Columbo first aired.

Columbo also set a stage for police procedural dramas on TV and movies alike, revolutionized how investigating should be done and also introduced the concept of a police who doesn’t even carry a gun but faces down hardcore criminals with ease.

His catch phrase "Just one more thing" is to be dreaded by the criminals. If he is doggedly following you, looking affable and trying to put you at ease, then you have landed into a trap. For, he knows surely that you are the killer. 

The book begins with a foreword by Link who goes on explain how Columbo came to conceive and how he and Levinson zeroed-in on Peter Falk as the actor to play the character. Link also clears a few doubts on Columbo and tells the readers why he decided to write these stories. Boy! Am I glad he did. 

The first story is titled The Criminal Criminal Attorney where a murder of a recently acquitted rapist, Kenny Santoro, is investigated. In this, Columbo is taken to meet a mobster, Joseph Santoro, which reminded me of two of Columbo episodes where he is taken to the mobster for discussion - Season 10, Episode 10 titled "Strange Bedfellows" originally aired in May of 1955; and Season 10, Episode 14 titled "Columbo Likes the Nightlife" originally aired in January of 2003, which incidentally happens to be the final episode of the show. 

The second story titled Grief has Columbo investigating a hit and run accident of a doctor, George, on the request of his sister she suspected foul play. I am so used to seeing Columbo without any modern gadgets that it came as a surprise when Link has Columbo carrying a cell phone in this episode. Guess, Columbo got an upgrade too. :)

The third story titled A Dish Best Served Cold has Columbo investigating the suspicious murder of an army personnel, Captain Lawrence Lemont. While in the fourth story titled Ricochet, he is sent to New York to investigate a suspect in the murder of a paroled convict, Hammershield. We see the absolute fear of flying in Columbo in this episode.

The fifth story titled Scout's Honor involves the murder of a pretty young girl, Nancy Cook, whose body is discovered by a boy scout's group. The sixth story Sucker Punch involves the murder of Chuck Washburn, a professional wrestler. 

The seventh story titled The Blackest Mail takes Columbo into tinsel town to investigate a stalking by Ray Matos gone wrong resulting in a murder. The eighth story title The Gun That Wasn't involves murder of one of their own for Columbo, Detective Charlie Bevans being the victim.

The ninth story titled Requiem For A Hitman takes Columbo into a famous judge's home, Judge Victor Copeland, involving a double murder. The title of this plot is so close to the title of Season 2, Episode 5, Requiem for a Falling Star.

The tenth story titled Trance takes Columbo into the world of hypnosis and an investigation into the murder of Ilene Louis Whitfield. The eleventh story titled Murder Allegro has Columbo investigating the murder of Elaine Morasaki, violinist in the famous group the Allegro String Quartet. The twelfth and final story is titled Photo Finish has Columbo investigating the murder of Scott Blackmer.

As much as the movies have enchanted, entertained and charmed the viewers, the book did the same to the readers, bringing the rumpled raincoat and cigar holding lieutenant to life. An easy read but very complicated plots, that make you want to go back and forth to see where you missed the clues that Columbo found. Have fun exploring through a dozen plots. Enjoy!!

Spoiler Alerts:

1. Plot reveals:

a. The book has a drawing of Columbo done by Peter Falk with a note that Peter Falk was the one who added the coat to the character that William Link co-created along-side Richard Levinson.

b. The fifth story Scout's Honor reminded me of one of Columbo's own plot where a father goes to extreme measures in protecting his son. Its from Season 3, Episode 6 titled Mind Over Mayhem. 

c. The back book cover has a picture of Peter Falk dressed as Columbo and William Link aping the character.

2. Sub-Plots:

a. Peter Falk acted in the 1960 film Murder, Inc., an America gangster film, debut director for Peter Rosenberg who happened to be a very good friend of Falk. 

3. Grammatical / Factual / Location / Historical / Character Errors:

a. In the third story, A Dish Best Served Cold, towards the end of the plot, Manny, one of the characters, accuses Columbo earlier when he had asked if he was a suspect, Columbo had not answered the question. But nowhere earlier in the plot does that conversation happen. 

b. On Pg. 210, Line 8 from bottom, shouldn’t it be "…What's this all about…"rit


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