The Last Billable Hour by Susan Wolfe

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Back to the 80s for this murder mystery!

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 clientele. Enter Howard Rickover. Pudgy and perpetually rumpled, Howard is an unlikely addition to the Tweedmore tank of sharply dressed sharks. But when one of the sharks is stabbed to death, the scrappy no-nonsense homicide detective inexplicably selects Howard to run an inside job, helping her to flush out the murderer. Will wits and chemistry be enough to allow this unlikely duo to find the killer before the killer finds them?    Goodreads

This murder mystery is set within a law office, so while we’re working to uncover a killer, the author also provides a look into the stressful, overwhelming, and sometimes illegal activities of lawyers. I can’t say that I understood much of the description of the on-goings of the office (I understood very little!) but this added dimension to the story. Rather than your typical murder mystery, it is also a comment on the world of lawyers and what may be going on behind closed doors.

I still consider 3 stars a good rating (see my Rating System page) but it wasn’t great for me because I felt so behind with all the legal jargon. Even with the title “billable hour” term, various characters would describe it but not in clear ways so it took until the 5th time that it came up that it was finally put in terms I could understand. There was a review of this book I read that said the author does a good job of “dumbing down” the language but I did not find this to be the case.

I don’t want to discourage others from reading this, though! If you studied law or you’ve just seen all the episodes of The Good Wife and Law and Order, you’ll probably have an easier time than I did. All said, it’s really only the beginning of the book that throws all this legal stuff at you. I totally forgot that this book was a murder mystery until the murder occurred and after that point, there’s more of a balance between the investigation proceedings and Howard’s work at the firm.

In my reading of this, the overload of information felt like it helped put me in Howard’s shoes, though I certainly didn’t want to be there! I had once considered going into law (among many other paths), but a speaker had come to my high school and described his first job, which very closely resembled this one. Very, very long hours and a pile-up of work that never goes away; I very quickly realized that was not the job for me! And so it made me anxious just reading about the amount of work and stress Howard is under!

I really enjoyed the actual murder mystery aspect of this book. The book is billed as a mystery but I feel like it actually comes across as a book about lawyers first and foremost so the mystery is more backgrounded, though this isn’t a bad thing! I think it actually makes this book stand out more. While the majority of the characters’ activities in the later half of the book are focused on finding a killer, I didn’t find myself trying to figure out who did it. Instead, I was totally engaged with the story itself and focused on learning more about each character. When details of the murder would come up, it was a welcome surprise but still not central to my enjoyment of the story.

As minor comments, because the lawyers worked such strange hours it would’ve been helpful to mention am/pm with the time because I was totally lost trying to keep track of how many days had passed. Also, I really don’t think the epilogue added anything. I’m not sure if it was supposed to hint at something or I was supposed to interpret it in my own way but it felt empty. Still, it didn’t significantly detract from the book and I did like getting a final look at the characters, however brief it may have been.

Have you read any legal books? How have you fared?

Author links: Website | Facebook | Twitter

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

 

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