Saturday, March 14, 2015

Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek & T. J. Mitchell

Authors: Judy Melinek & T. J. Mitchell
Publisher: Scribner
Date of publication: August 2014

The fearless memoir of a young forensic pathologist's rookie season as a NYC medical examiner, and the cases, hair-raising and heartbreaking and impossibly complex, that shaped her as both a physician and a mother.

Working Stiff chronicles Judy's two years of training, taking readers behind the police tape of some of the most harrowing deaths in the Big Apple, including a firsthand account of the events of September 11, the subsequent anthrax bio-terrorism attack, and the disastrous crash of American Airlines flight 587.

Lively, action-packed, and loaded with mordant wit, Working Stiff offers a firsthand account of daily life in one of America's most arduous professions, and the unexpected challenges of shuttling between the domains of the living and the dead. The body never lies, and through the murders, accidents, and suicides that land on her table, Dr. Melinek lays bare the truth behind the glamorized depictions of autopsy work on shows like CSI and Law and Order to reveal the secret story of the real morgue.

I am not really a fan of non-fiction books, but I have always been fascinated by forensics.  This book came on my radar as a suggested read from my library, so I tried it out. Working Stiff is a memoir from Dr. Judy Melenick.  She gives us a look into the first two years of her life training as a medical examiner. From what I understand, she has gone on to have a very successful career.

I really enjoyed listening to this audiobook.  I found it a well written and very honest look at death.   One of the things I appreciated about the book was the way the author explained things to the reader.  It was straight forward and still technical, but in a way the average person could understand.  The book also gives you a reality check that forensics takes a LOT of time.  It's not like it is on CSI.  Blood and DNA tests can take months to come back. This can often be very frustrating for the families of the dead. There is definitely a gross out factor, so if you are squeamish, you may want to skip the part about the maggots.  That was really disgusting.

The hardest part of the book for me was listening to her talk about 9/11 and the aftermath.  Dr. Melenick had only been at the medical examiners office a couple of months when the towers fell.  She talks a lot about the recovery and body identification process.  But she also covers the human side of things, meaning how it affected all of those in charge of trying to identify the dead.  

Sprinkled throughout are stories of her son and husband,  I found those to be touching and quite amusing. I could go on and on.  Let's just say this was a fascinating look into a secret world that most of us don't see.   I definitely recommend this one to throw on your TBR pile!

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