The CSIs are on the case when a young woman is found dead with marks on her neck consistent with a vampire bite.
Eric and Calleigh head into a mansion that is only reachable by ferry, and they find the housekeeper Andrea Edison hanging, bloodless, inside. There’s a letter written with a made-up language in the desk, and the team discovers that the language was created by the home’s owner, a vampire author named Marilyn Milner. The letter is written in blood, which traces back to Wes Rayburn. Wes says Andrea was already dead when he got there, and he thought the body was a gift from Milner. He bit her neck with his modified “vampire” teeth, but there was no blood to drink.
There are bits of cork in Andrea’s hair from a wine bottle. The chef, Lawrence Kingman, found her body and called it in, and Milner’s editor Joseph Crumbaugh told him not to stay. Crumbaugh says he took his private boat to and from the island. He was sleeping with Andrea, and he knew it would look bad if it got out that Milner’s editor was sleeping with the maid, whose dead body was found on her property.
When the team heads to Crumbaugh’s boat, they find Lawrence and the “gardener” Kenny Barnsdall writing inside. They are ghost writers, and they and Andrea have been writing Marilyn Milner’s novels for the past three years. Milner gives them storylines and general ideas, and they go from there. They pretend to be the gardener, chef and maid if anybody comes to Milner’s mansion to prevent anyone from finding out the novels are ghost written. There’s an e-mail on Andrea’s computer offering some motive: Andrea threatened to expose the ghost writing if Crumbaugh didn’t give her $100,000. He was going to pay her, but he found her dead. He took the manuscript to the printers, and when they retrieve it, they realize the murder in the novel matches Andrea’s death.
The original crime scene is a Rolls Royce Phantom, which Milner bought with the profits from her first book. She told her editor that she was in Milan, but the text she sent traces back to Miami. She doesn’t write or read her own books, and she says she wouldn’t kill the best ghost writer who made her life so easy. The book doesn’t identify the killer, and Milner says the truth is revealed in the epilogue, which is exclusive to the audio version of the book. In the book, the killer drained the victim’s blood and drank it “like wine”, leading the team to the wine collection in the house. They realize Lawrence did it. He says Andrea took credit for his ideas, and he gave her a chance to fix it—she didn’t, so he killed her. He drained her blood and hung her up like the victim in the book, hoping they’d think a crazed fan did it. However, he left eight ounces of blood in her body, and he says the blood was draining too slowly. Hemlock was found on the body, and it can slow the heart. They need to figure out how it was introduced into the bloodstream, and they discover that the poison is found on Andrea’s wrists. A bottle of perfume Milner bought for her in Milan was dosed with hemlock to kill her slowly and cover the author’s tracks.
Vampire novels are all the rage these days, and CSI: Miami embraces the phenomenon in time for Halloween with “By the Book”, which combines the undead bloodsuckers with a murder mystery and plenty of deceit and intrigue. At the beginning of the episode, Calleigh comments that she “hates Halloween” when they discover a young woman dead, hung by the ankles from the ceiling and drained of blood—complete with a set of “vampire” teeth marks on her neck. The murder turns out to be related to the vampire phenomenon, not specifically Halloween, but there’s another mention at the end of the episode to tie back in with Calleigh’s earlier statement. The team is getting ready to head out for dinner together, but they get a call about a new body. The killer is a “werewolf”, and Calleigh repeats herself: she hates Halloween. It’s hard to blame her, though, especially after she and Horatio chase Wes and capture the vampire enthusiast in the forest—but not before the man sinks his sharp “vampire” teeth into her arm. Horatio rushes over and, rather than secure the suspect, leans down to check on Calleigh first. It’s understandable that he would be more concerned about Calleigh’s well-being, but there’s a murder suspect standing—unrestrained—mere feet away while Horatio’s attention is focused elsewhere. Luckily, Wes is dumb enough to just climb a tree, and Horatio shoots a branch to knock him off his perch. Wes says he’s going to sue, and Horatio says, “Be my guest.” It’s kind of a silly scene, but we’re talking about a guy who thinks he’s a vampire. I have to admit, I’m surprised Calleigh’s “bite” isn’t mentioned at any point later in the episode.
There are some fun character scenes throughout the episode, and several of them include Dr Tom Loman. He’s standing next to the body with Walter and Ryan, processing the victim when the CSIs comment that they need to identify the young woman. Tom offers her name, and when Ryan asks how he knew who she was, Tom produces the ferry pass he found in her pocket. He hands it over and takes off his gloves. When he reaches for his clipboard, he loses his grip, and it slips out of his hands. Walter calls him “butter fingers”, but Tom is slightly alarmed. His hands feel tingly, and Ryan reaches for the gloves he discarded. They smell like dead mice, although Walter is curious about how Ryan knows what dead mice smell like. Ryan explains that they had a mouse trap next to the refrigerator in college, and “you never forget the smell of dead mice.” Tom remarks that hemlock smells like dead mice, and he’s trained to look for it when he’s performing autopsies because it can be fatal if it enters the bloodstream. There’s hemlock on Andrea’s body, and he came in contact with it when he took off his gloves. He says it’s probably a small dose, but he should still wash his hands—a lot.
Eric heads down to the coroner’s office a bit later to see if Tom was able to figure out how Andrea’s blood was drained, and he finds the ME washing his hands again. Eric is sure Tom survived his encounter with hemlock, but Tom would rather be safe than sorry—so he rinses his hands one last time. It’s hard to blame the coroner for wanting to be extra sure he doesn’t have any poison on his hands, but it’s a really fun moment for the character. I love Tom, so anything that shows his quirkiness is a plus in my book. His interaction with Ryan is great too. I always enjoy the prickly sort of relationship they seem to have with each other. And, of course, you can never go wrong with Ryan and Walter, whose banter and teasing are often my favorite part of an episode. Putting all three together in the mansion scene is a winning combination.
Walter and Ryan also share an amusing scene without Tom as they look around the grounds for the source of the poison. Ryan wonders why someone would put such a dangerous plant in their front yard, and Walter suggests that they might be antisocial. They are using telescoping metal pointers to search, enabling them to avoid coming in contact with the plants, and they finally locate the hemlock next to the swimming pool. Ryan remarks that the plant is “so beautiful, yet so deadly”, swinging his pointer around at Walter—prompting Walter to deflect the pointer with his own. Ryan says they need to find the gardener, and a commotion draws their attention to the man carrying firewood nearby. He identifies himself as the gardener, so Walter and Ryan share a look before telling the man in unison that he’ll be heading into the precinct with them.
Walter shares several scenes with Natalia in “By the Book”, and I really enjoy their dynamic as well. Natalia doesn’t opt for Ryan’s vaguely-immature behavior around Walter, but the pair of them still laugh and seem comfortable with each other. When they discover Lawrence and Kenny on Crumbaugh’s boat, they are surprised to learn the men are ghost writers for Milner. Kenny tells the CSIs that their identities as chef, gardener and maid were merely a “ruse” to fool any visitors who came to the mansion. Walter seems to think the word “ruse” is clever enough to confirm that these guys are authors, and Natalia gets to work searching for Andrea’s blood. She sprays luminol all over the floor at Kenny and Lawrence’s feet, and Lawrence exclaims that they’re trying to work. Natalia retorts that she’s doing the same thing. When Natalia finds Andrea’s laptop and asks for the password, the men feign ignorance. Walter turns to them and snaps, “Man, what’s the damn password?” Lawrence gives up the word quickly, and Walter offers the man a “thank you” in the same tone as Natalia grins up at him.
There are several guest stars that I recognize this week, namely Diane Farr and Orlando Jones, who play the famous vampire author and the killer who wants recognition for his work. Farr in particular seems a bit wasted in the role, only appearing a few times in the second half of the episode. Despite the lack of screentime, Farr is great as the famous author who is too busy relaxing by the pool to write her own books. When the team confronts her about poisoning Andrea with hemlock at the end of the hour, she seems to be under the impression that she’s an expert about law enforcement because she did some research for her novels and went on a few ride-alongs. She knows how cops think, she says, and while they believe that justice would be served by arresting her, they’d just be giving her inspiration for her next book. Unfortunately for Milner, that tactic doesn’t work; the police charge her with attempted murder, and she is led away in handcuffs. However, I do have to wonder why Andrea would continue to wear the perfume Milner sent her if contact with hemlock causes skin to feel tingly. If I put on perfume that made my arms tingle, the first thing I’d do is wash it off.
When a uniformed officer guides Milner through the precinct, they pass by Lawrence, who has confessed to killing Andrea and draining her blood. Lawrence tries to talk to the author, but she doesn’t seem to know who he is—as they are pulled in different directions, he calls out that he “made” her. He committed murder because he wasn’t recognized for his ghost-writing contributions to the Milner novels, and in the end, the woman still doesn’t know his name. It is odd, though, that Lawrence tries to pin the murder on a crazed fan by modeling it after a book that wasn’t publicly available at the time. As soon as the team realizes Andrea’s death parallels the latest manuscript, they are able to narrow down their suspect pool to eliminate the very people Lawrence wanted to blame. It would have made more sense for him to base the murder on an already-released book. That said, Jones does a great job in the role, skillfully portraying several facets of the character over the course of the hour: the seemingly-innocent ruse of a cook who found Andrea’s body, the confident ghost writer who seems largely unfazed by the death of a colleague, and finally the frustrated, slightly crazed man who is desperate to have his skills acknowledged.
“By the Book” ends with the team getting ready to head out for dinner before they get a new case. They invite Frank along, but he declines. He claims that he’s waiting on a case meeting, but in reality he’s too busy reading the first Milner novel after becoming interested in the series during the course of the episode. He has no idea who Milner is at first, but he finds himself engrossed in the manuscript for the latest book after he picks it up from the printer. In fact, he’s so busy reading that he doesn’t exit the elevator when the door opens, and Walter has to get his attention. When the team looks through the manuscript for clues about the murder, Frank is clearly interested in what he’s reading, and the episode ends with him smiling as he works his way through the vampire novel. Rex Linn is always fun to watch, and the mini storyline provides some great moments for his character.
See also: “By the Book” episode guide