Working Stiff

Working Stiff

Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of A Medical Examiner

Book - 2014 | First Scribner hardcover edition
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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. Just two months before the September 11 terrorist attacks, Dr. Judy Melinek began her training as a New York City forensic pathologist. With her husband T.J. and their toddler Daniel holding down the home front, Judy threw herself into the fascinating world of death investigation -- performing autopsies, investigating death scenes, counseling grieving relatives.
Publisher: New York, NY : Scribner, 2014
Edition: First Scribner hardcover edition
ISBN: 9781476727257
Branch Call Number: 614.1092 MEL
Additional Contributors: Mitchell, T. J.


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May 10, 2020

Fairly quick read, and fascinating. The writing style is light and flowing, so I hardly put it down and finished the day after checking this one out.

I am reading during the coronavirus pandemic and I can now imagine what the NYC Medical Examiner's office is going through. As I thank the front-line workers such as doctors, nurses, delivery drivers, grocery store owners, etc I now add coroner's and medical examiners offices.

Dec 21, 2019

This was an interesting book until she got to 9/11; then it was riveting. It became a devastatingly close perspective on something that, I came to realize, I had no real grasp of.
I was in 5th grade when it happened, so I was never given anything other than: terrorist attack, planes crashed, people died.
Her point of view gives a horrifying close-up of one of the worst events in our modern history as a country.
She made it real for me, where numbers and pictures hadn't, and I cried. And cried and cried. It was horrible, but it's well-written, and so important.

Nov 22, 2018

nice lady, gross job

Sep 01, 2018

Great book. Extremely engaging and informative, but not dull or pedantic. Worth a read!

Feb 15, 2018

Endearing and engaging given the grim subject matter... Dr. Melinek gives us and in depth view only few can provide while respecting those featured and their families. Would definitely recommend if you are a fan of mystery thrillers.. crime shows or if you binge watch Bones on Netflix!

Jan 17, 2018

Surprisingly enjoyable, given the subject matter. Well-written, warm hearted story by an extremely intelligent woman. Glad I had time to read this in one sitting, it's very worth the time

Feb 07, 2017

Interesting look into a fascinating profession. She is pretty matter-of-fact but had a wide variety of cases. She has a readable style--a fun and quick read but worth it.

Sep 28, 2016

I did not see described autopsies dark, or scary, or causing nausea, as some people could think referring to the subject of the book. It was quite interesting to read about the various causes of death and how a forensic expert, who is the author and the protagonist of the book, learned from experience to identify a particular cause of death.
I liked the fact that she is emphasizing that the object of autopsy - is, above all, a body of human being, and therefore is worthy of respect. If only because of the relatives.

Sep 01, 2016

Dr. Melinek's writing style and educational details made her book easy to read in terms of medical terminology. She handled horrible situations with humor and honesty. However, the graphic nature of the true stories may be a bit much for someone that's squeamish or has been traumatized by witnessing, living through, or having a loved one experience a violent death. I devoured the book in less than three days, but I did have to put it down at times when stories hit too close to home. In a way, I found it therapeutic to have medical insight into the natural deaths of loved ones and to see the dedication of professionals who handle all the aspects of death that we're normally shielded from.

May 06, 2016

9/3 - Reading this, I feel like this it's the true story of Kay Scarpetta, for the new century. I like Melinek's voice and style of writing and her irreverent way of looking at death. I love the way she describes her reaction to shows featuring characters doing her job - the fact that they go to every crime scene, the women wear their good high-heeled shoes, they actually help with the investigation. From now on CSI will be light-hearted crime fiction, in the same league as those 'cosy mysteries' that feature little old lady super-sleuths, not a realistic look into the life of a medical examiner. I can see the irony and humour in some of the causes of death that she sees (although, not when contemplating my own future). For example, an unfortunate worker having his morning coffee gets hit in the head by a giant crane, a crane so large that he is practically crumpled into the ground like an aluminium can. Although, at the same time reading medical nonfiction does hit a bit close to home for someone only weeks away from having major surgery to remove a 9 x 7 cm suspicious mass, along with 25% of her liver. Maybe I shouldn't be reading this right now... So far I'm enjoying it despite the negative thoughts it's bringing up. To be continued...

12/3 - Not as bad as I thought it was going to be re bringing up disturbing thoughts, except for one of the later chapters focussing on deaths due to 'medical misadventures' or 'therapeutic complications' as Melinek puts it - when a patient dies during non-emergent surgery due to surgeon error. Reading about the ordeal Melinek and her fellow medical examiners went through in the aftermath of September 11 was a little tough, even for someone who's never been to New York - body bags becoming body part bags becoming body bit bags (a lump of skin, a piece of an intestine) and thinking of all the families who don't KNOW what happened to their father, mother, son, daughter. That was really sad. I do wonder how she remembered the details of all these cases, from 14 years ago, so vividly, even seeming to repeat conversations word for word. I also wonder how she managed to get all the patient's families to agree to have their family member's death story revealed in the ME's memoir. There was no mention anywhere of the names having been changed to protect the surviving family members, so I have to assume that all those names are real. Whatever the case, highly recommended to those with a strong stomach and a lack of anxiety regarding all the ways they and their loved ones could die.

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Dec 21, 2019

ahessel thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


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Oct 11, 2016

"So don't jaywalk.

Wear your seat belt when you drive.

Better yet, stay out of your car and get some exercise.

Watch your weight.

If you're a smoker, stop right now. If your aren't, don't start.

Guns put holes in people. Drugs are bad.

You know that yellow line on the subway platform? It's there for a reason.

Staying alive, as it turns out, is mostly common sense."


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