This was an interesting one for me. It brought two of my favourite things, the 87th Precinct books and Lt. Columbo, together in a way that I wasn't expecting. The blurb hinted at the connection, but it took me until the first illustration of the piece of a photograph to confirm that they were going to be very similar indeed. It took me a little more reading to realise that they were almost identical, the main difference been the switching of parts so that Columbo was now Detective Arthur Brown (or vice versa).
Essentially, two bodies are found and it's clear that they killed each other. There's not much to go on, the only strange thing being the oddly-shaped piece of a snapshot in the hands on one of the victims.
In steps insurance investigator, Irving Krutch (played by Ed Begley Jr in the Undecover episode from Falk's tenth season). He's up to speed on the photograph puzzle, owning a piece himself. When all the pieces are put together, it will lead to the finding of $750K stolen from a bank several years earlier. Krutch wants to find all the pieces to clear his reputation at work and suggests to Brown and Carella that they would make a good team.
The problem for me is that I couldn't separate the book from the TV episode. My mind was constantly creating clashing images and any tension or attempts at problem-solving were undermined by knowing what was just around the corner.
To complicate matters, I watched How To Dial A Murder, where I bumped into Ed Begley Jr again, this time in the role of a police officer.
Trying to unscramble it all became impossible. Let me say that I love the Undercover episode and I also really enjoyed the book.
There are only a few differences between the adaptation and the book as far as I can tell.
First of all, the way the criminal is pinned down is totally altered. The TV version comes up with a slightly unlikely piece of detective work as it seemingly was unable to use the actual ending, possibly because of the potential for controversy.
And second, and a big miss from the adaptation, there are the racist events that Brown encounters while doing his job (including a terrific observation from a prostitute who attempts to dig herself out of trouble by offering Brown oral sex, commenting that the colour of the male appendage makes no difference to her and contradicting her opening lines in the process- go check it out). To me, this tips the win to the novel and I'm sure if I'd read it before watching that this feeling might be even stronger.
All in all, it was great to be back with the 87th again even if this isn't among the best; I'm already looking forward to the next.