COLUMBO: The Helter Skelter Murders by William Harrington

COLUMBO: The Helter Skelter Murders

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Peter Falk meets Charles Manson, right? Well, not exactly: The rumpled detective isn't really played by the TV actor, though he sure looks and sounds like him, and he meets Manson only once, briefly -- not counting the time back in 1969 when (we're told) he was part of the original Manson family investigation. Unlike Lt. Columbo's hardcover debut (Columbo: The Grassy Knoll, 1993), this cheatingly titled case doesn't reopen a real-life crime and doesn't involve the Manson family except in the most peripheral sense: as a cover for a very ordinary copycat murder timed for the silver anniversary of Sharon Tate's death. Taking advantage of the fact that Cathy Murphy -- baptized Puss Dogood when she threw in with Manson 25 years ago -- is his hated wife Arlene's secretary, LA boutique king Yussef Khoury plots with his own secretary/lover Kimberly Dana to kill Arlene and her paramour and pin the blame on poor Puss. Luckily for the Manson class of '69, the inimitable Columbo is on the scene, imperturbably writing out his grocery list, trying once again to qualify with his own .38, mumbling about taking scuba lessons, and incidentally nailing the conspirators while providing his faithful TV audience whatever thrills they can get from cheering ""hotter, hotter"" (his inquiries about a Harry Winston choker supposedly stolen from Arlene's nightstand) and ""colder, colder"" (an interminable subplot involving Khoury's film production company) en route to a windup without a single new surprise and an epilogue cribbed from Dragnet. Colder, Lieutenant. Ice cold.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1994
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Forge -- dist. by St. Martin's