Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Last Billable Hour: Susan Wolfe

Susan Wolfe is a lawyer, and in this book she writes about a Silicon Valley law firm filled with sleazy and / or very ambitious lawyers. She writes well about this subject; I hope she hasn't ever had to work in such a corrupt firm.

Howard Rickover is an inexperienced lawyer and has only been at Tweedmore and Slyde for a few months when one of the founders, Leo Slyde, is killed. Homicide detective Sarah Nelson enlists his help in uncovering the murderer by requesting that he keep an eye open at the firm and let her know if he hears or sees anything useful. That is not an orthodox approach but it works.


The story is very engaging. The first quarter of this very brief book (182 pages) is about the huge amount of work that Howard takes on in his first weeks at the firm, and the dog eat dog world of the legal firm he works for.  In fact, Howard's story was just as interesting as the mystery for me. It is pretty clear that everyone dislikes Leo Slyde, but when the police interview the employees at Tweedmore and Slyde, everyone but Howard says that Leo was loved by all.

I liked this book a lot, even though it is an amateur sleuth mystery. Yes, there is a police detective who plays a prominent role in the story, but Howard is the real star of the show. The book won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel in 1990. It is a real shame that the author did not continue with more books about this pair.

I first discovered this book at Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan. See Bill Selnes' review there, and his later post on the author, who has now written a second mystery.



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Publisher:   Ivy Books, 1990 (orig. pub. 1989)
Length:      182 pages
Format:      Paperback
Setting:      Silicon Valley, California
Genre:        Mystery
Source:      I purchased my copy at a book sale in 2015.



19 comments:

  1. Have I told you how much I love the vintage covers that you share with us? I do. This one sounds fun, for a crime novel reader anyway. That red phone receiver - think anyone younger than 20 has ever seen one? LOL

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    1. Thanks, Kay. I love old paperback covers. And you are right about the telephone, although it did not even occur to me. That is why I like reading older mysteries, before technology was so prevalent (in plots and real life).

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  2. This does sound good, Tracy. As you say, it may not be an orthodox way for the police to operate, but given the context, it does make sense. And the mystery itself sounds interesting. Glad you enjoyed it.

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    1. I read this one quite a few months ago, Margot, and I still remember how much I liked it, how the story is set up and the unusual aspects.

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  3. I read this book some years ago, and absolutely loved it. Your post inspired me to see if I could track down her new novel, and have just bought it for my kindle...

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    1. I am planning to get a copy of the new novel also, Moira. I definitely think it is worth a try.

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  4. This does sound good. Amateur sleuth stories get info indirectly sometimes which makes their POV on crimes and such problematic with limited 1st person POV on the details which is understandable. All of that to say - I have to be in the mood for these types of mysteries. Thanks for the review. --Keishon

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    1. Amateur sleuth mysteries have never been a favorite with me, Keishon, but sometimes if they team up with a policeman it works better. My main complaint is how many times a person (who is not a crime investigator of some type) can get involved with a murder. But in this case that doesn't apply since it isn't a series.

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  5. TracyK: Thanks for the kind mention of my blog. I agree it is a good book and will keep an eye out for the second Wolfe has written but surely a book published in 1990 is not an "older" mystery. I am feeling old if 1990 mysteries are now in the "vintage" category.

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    1. Maybe not vintage but definitely older, Bill. That is 28 years ago and a lot has happened since then, in technology and books. I admit I did not think of it as an older book when I was reading it, but I like to read mysteries from the 80s and 90s because they don't have to use so much technology. Regardless, very glad you introduced me to the book and that I finally read it.

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  6. I kind of like the sound of this and its a great cover, but probably won't chase after it.

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    1. It is very good, Col, but I can sympathize re having too many books already.

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  7. Has a familiar ring to it--Grisham, maybe? The Firm? I got kinda burned out on Grisham, Tracy, and haven't read anything by him in years, but this appeals to me, Maybe Grisham from a female perspective.

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    1. Matt, The Last Billable Hour actually reminded me a lot of a book by Donald Westlake, Trust Me on This, about a young, relatively inexperienced female journalist working for a tabloid. The Westlake book was much more humorous, but the initiation into a new working environment was similar. I haven't read much Grisham, only Pelican Brief so far, and I plan to read a few more of his books.

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  8. Thanks for the review, Tracy. I will look for a copy of this book and the Westlake.

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    1. I hope you find copies, Elgin. Both are very good. I need to read more Westlake.

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  9. I'd heard about this book, Tracy. In fact, it's on my TBR list so eventually I'll be reading it. At 182 pages, I could probably read it in one fell swoop.

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    1. I think you will like it when you get to it, Yvette. And the short length is a plus.

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  10. I didn’t understand the epilogue. Anyone?

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