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The Last Billable Hour

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  427 ratings  ·  57 reviews
It's the 1980s, and Tweedmore & Slyde is the hottest law firm in red-hot Silicon Valley, where the computer industry is creating new ways to mint money, and lots of it. Tweedmore's lawyers are masters at carving out their own little slices of that pie?drafting briefs and wills and contracts, and putting in 18-hour days to protect the interests of their staggeringly wealthy ...more
Paperback, 242 pages
Published August 1st 2005 by Felony & Mayhem (first published March 1989)
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Average rating 3.70  · 
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Meggy Chocolate'n'Waffles
I picked this book thinking nothing could go wrong; it had two of my favorites things: a murder and lawyers. It turns out I need a little more than that to be convinced.

When Howard is hired by Tweedmore and Slyde, he discovers just how little Law school prepare you for the real work. So do we. For the first third of the story, Howard struggles to find a balance and meet deadlines, throwing us Latin quotes and big words like subpoena every couple of page. Any fan of legal drama is in their elemen
Jan 21, 2020 rated it liked it
In the crowded field of attorneys-turned-authors of crime fiction and courtroom dramas, dominated by giants like John Grisham and Scott Turow and imitated by dozens of others, it’s not surprising to find one imitator who injects humor into her narrative as her mark of distinction.

Enter author Susan Wolfe, a Stanford Law School graduate, who in The Last Billable Hour has written a lighthearted mystery surrounding the murder of a partner in a California law firm. More mildly amusing than actually
May Ling
Jun 13, 2011 added it
Shelves: mysteries
This was a great little mystery novel. In a very short period, Wolfe develops a set of characters that keeps a person engaged.
Robin Casselman
Sep 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely loved it! And hated it at the same time. Reading defensively, as a retired workaholic myself who is only now learning how to cook, I found myself skewered with relish! Kebabbed! Or is that ka-bobbed?! Over and over again, with a clever mix of perspicuity and sarcasm applied liberally throughout this battering ramekin of a first book by Susan Wolfe. A lawyer herself, Wolfe gleefully spoofs and spoils the vainglorious world of high-priced attorneys and their hundred-hour work week lives ...more
This wasn't as lighthearted as I expected -- it's a mostly serious murder mystery set in a California law firm in the 1980s. It reminded me of early books by John Grisham and Sidney Sheldon, with a classically overworked associate who tries to make up for feeling overwhelmed by working even harder.

It seemed clear to me that the author had actually worked in a law firm -- the details rang as true as the overall architecture of the setting. Of course it's somewhat dated: corded phones, hard copie
Jul 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty good

Lots of characters to keep track of. Had some trouble following through the first half. Got a handle on it, but there were still switchbacks that took me some time to figure out. Howard is surprisingly likeable. The ending is okay, a little vague.
Jan 10, 2012 rated it liked it
I chanced upon this book in Düsseldorf and bought it for just a euro but I read it in German translation and it is probably even better in English. This work is considerably better than the majority of whodunnits which pour off the press and Susan Wolfe is more accomplished than at least two more famous writers of murder mysteries that I can think of-Ngaio Marsh for instanc or the abysmally overrated Ian Rainkin. She succeeds where they fail, in providing a creidbly plot with credible and subtle ...more
Beth Roemer
May 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I just re-read this book and it's as good as I remembered. It's several things at once: a murder mystery, a comic novel, a moral tale, and a skillfully drawn depiction of certain high-octane years in a Silicon Valley law firm. And the theme is still current: Howard’s insecurities will resonate with young lawyers struggling to develop their legal skills as they adjust to the directive of the billable hour.
The world of Tweedmore & Slyde is glamorous (and daunting) to its newest associate, Howard R
Susan Termohlen
May 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If you're thinking of becoming a lawyer, read this book first!! Even if the law firm described seems like a minor version of hell, you will have a lot of fun reading the book. It accurately describes a new lawyer's early years in a high-pressure law firm (I should know - I've been there). The book is laugh out loud funny and you'll really root for the unlikely hero, Howard Rickover. The story advances largely through dialogue which makes for a quick and fun read. It's hard to write good dialogue ...more
Carol Kersten
May 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A great read!

What a fun, and funny book. It is engaging and entertaining, with great dialogue and writing. I'm not big on mysteries, but this book is so much more than a whodunit. What hooked me was the characters – – Sarah, the rumpled detective, who doesn't care if no one is impressed, and Howard, the struggling young lawyer, just trying to keep from losing his job, not to mention the array of colorful personalities they encounter. I loved the intelligent and nuanced examination of what in the
Martha Conway
May 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I read this funny and pointed mystery in just about one sitting. We follow the seemingly hapless Howard from the time he waits for an interview with a prestigious San Francisco law firm, through his beginning weeks at the new job, and as he gets caught up in the firm's shenanigans and a murder (but are they connected??). I'm not an attorney, but the day-to-day functions of this office seemed completely believable, while at the same time kind of ridiculous — in a funny, exposed kind of way. Attor ...more
Jan 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: legal, mystery
"1990 Edgar Award for Best First Novel; Finalist 1990 Anthony Award for Best First Novel; Finalist 1990 Macavity Award for Best First Novel" So far author Wolfe must be regarded as a one book wonder. This fabulous first effort has not been followed up.

Thriller - Howard Rickover is an unassuming new associate at the high-powered firm of Tweedmore & Slyde, attorneys to SVM (Silicon Valley Millionaires). When Leo Slyde is murdered in his office there are a wealth of suspects and homicide detective
Marcia Kemp
May 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Susan Wolfe’s first book, The Last Billable Hour, was a classic in its day and remains remarkably relevant to Silicon Valley in the 21st century, taking the reader inside the big law firms that still pull plenty of strings in today’s version of High Tech. Wolfe is a deft storyteller and readers will be drawn to this compelling mystery and its colorful characters, the like of which can still be found scuttling across the green campuses of the social media giants. With summer coming, you couldn’t ...more
Leslie Ingham
May 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What a great little mystery!
The Last Billable Hour is the story of a young lawyer who finds himself improbably hired at a very hot Silicon Valley law firm in the late '80s, and plunged in over his head in more ways than one. The setting is distinctive, and as a SV local I find it kind of nostalgic, but the real appeal of the book lies in the light hand of the storyteller, giving us charming leading characters with a story that moves steadily along. Never dull, lots of understated humor. And the
May 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
I can't say that I ever thought I would want to revisit the law firm world in fiction after leaving it, but Susan Wolfe makes it enjoyable! This book is a classic "whodunnit" in the unusual setting of a Silicon Valley law firm. The story is fast-paced and fun to read, with a very likeable protagonist. The book also does a great job of bringing you into the world of Silicon Valley without drowning you in jargon. Although the story is action-focused, I also enjoyed the little reflections on the st ...more
Linda Mertz
Jun 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What a thoroughly enjoyable and fun book! Author Susan Wolfe guides the reader through a maze of clues to finally reveal the killer in this intriguing murder mystery. Her characters are quirky and memorable. One wants to get to know them better. Her descriptions are crisp and vivid. With the knowledge of an insider she reveals the greed and absence of integrity in a successful and highly profitable law firm. This behind the scenes glimpse into a hidden world and the author's delightful sense of ...more
Wolfe, Susan - standalone

Rumpled, overweight Howard Rickover, the Silicon Valley firm's newest lawyer--and, therefore, flunky--hits his stride when he helps police detective Sarah Nelson find out who stabbed firm partner Leo Slyde. While not always totally convincing (and never surprising), the plot does provide insight into an intriguing world of legal subterfuge.

This was Wolfe's only book and I could see why. It was okay, but only okay.
Apr 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
Wonderful mystery story set in a large silicon valley law firm in the late 1980's. Ms. Wolfe was a practitioner at such a firm and accurately explains quite a bit about the life those lawyers lead. Won an Edgar for best 1st mystery. I and my Mother--a big mystery buff who loved and gave me this book--were both disappointed Ms. Wolfe did not write a sequel or ten. ...more
Jan 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Rereading. Very good good characters good plot good analysis of lawyers. Funny without being over the top . Nice. Originally published 1989 (my edition) so pre PC. Sadly appears to be only mystery by this author
Aug 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, edgar-award
Edgar Award winner and it's easy to see why. This book was thoroughly engrossing and frighteningly accurate in its portrayal of life at a big law firm. Highly recommend. ...more
Jared Castiglione
Oct 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading this book. I didn’t know anything about it, or the author, when I found it at a Friends of the Library book sale. (It’s been in my shelf for a while since those book sales haven’t happened in months.) The fun part about this book is that it’s very easy to identify with the main character. He’s just as much out of sorts as we the readers are and that helps make this book accessible to more than lawyers or millionaires or Californians in Silicon Valley.
There’s a good story here
Jun 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was attracted to the title because as a consultant, billable hours were imperative and we had to code our time in 15 minute increments. In this book, newly-minted lawyer Howard goes to work for a law firm where he has to record in 6 minute increments and despite working horrendous hours, is still last in the billing race. Then one of the founding partners is murdered in the office and a cop convinces Howard to work from the inside to help solve the case. The author is a lawyer herself. Intrigu ...more
Oct 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Much of the story is based on the sad truth about young law associates at high powered law firms. It is a lousy existence particularly if the associate is not personally connected to partners or other high powered people. For the misfits or slightly odd it is impossible. I saw that with my own experiences working with lawyers and testifying at depositions. This book was well done in describing the dismal life of a law associate. A fairly good mystery and a decent one-time read with a funny but c ...more
Terri Weitze
Oct 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Such a good book. Detective/murder mystery set in a law office. I work in a law office and I assure you Susan Wolfe got it right - including the law. It drives me up a wall when a book about law gets the law wrong, and this one covers a gamut and it is all spot on. The characters are believable, the dialogue is entertaining, and the mystery kept me guessing right up to the very end. The end seemed to wrap up a little quickly for my taste, but that may be because I was enjoying the book so much I ...more
Apr 13, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book and thought it well written. I did have a problem with all the legal terminology (I guess it was easy to tell it was written by a lawyer! but most technical information was extraneous to the story or could have been rewritten to make it more acceptable to the non-lawyer readers. The plot was great in highlighting the difficulty of solving a murder, or any mystery, when you have a lot of suspects. Even though not a primary suspect through most of the book, I was delighted that ...more
Scooby Doo
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was completely entertained by this legal thriller that was a mashup of Agatha Christie and Pink Panther. The bumbling lawyer in a firm where everyone has a motive for killing the victim. I thought the author's humor was very clever. I smiled a lot while reading. The author has a narrative trick she uses that doesn't always work but when it does is pretty cute; She'll change topic dramatically in the middle of a paragraph to indicate the protagonist's mind is wandering. ...more
Maureen Hetzel
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
The intrigue of a murder happening to a founding partner of a very successful Silicon Valley law practice. All the secrets of all the attorneys and support staff are revealed in the quest to find the killer. And the newest associate is recruited to help the police solve the crime. Many red herrings later the killer is unmasked. May not encourage anyone to a law career but will intrigue those who love mysteries.
James Wicks
Apr 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great read

This was an enjoyable, fun read. Especially liked the protagonists, but also liked the depictions of the lawyers, who were intentionally caricatured a bit to give it a slight tongue-in-cheek feel. Faced-paced with snappy dialogue. When I started out in the corporate world, I felt kind of out-of-place and overwhelmed, like a Howard. A lot of sharks out there, everywhere. That kept it real. Yep. Good stuff.
Jun 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read this book on a flyer - it sounded appealing. It was a hit! Sharp use of language, details of deals that could only be relayed by a lawyer author about top end lawyers. Besides that it was a mystery that kept me guessing with great character development. I just ordered her second novel "Escape Velocity." I'm hoping it follows the same characters, but doubt it. An unexpected gem. ...more
Carol Carmichael
Jun 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
Without a doubt this was the slowest, dullest book beginning I've ever read. The only thing that kept me reading until about 40% of the book was read, is my determination to never not finish a book once begun. It did get more interesting, though not totally believable; but then the ending left me flat. I would never recommend this book to anyone. ...more
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Susan Wolfe is a lawyer with a B.A. from the University of Chicago and a law degree from Stanford University. After four years of practicing law full time, she bailed out and wrote the best-selling The Last Billable Hour, which won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel. She returned to law for another sixteen years, first as a criminal defense attorney and then as an in-house lawyer for Silicon Val ...more

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