19/30 Book Review: Working Stiff

Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner
Judy Melinek & TJ Mitchell


Just two months before the September 11 terrorist attacks, Dr. Judy Melinek began her training as a New York City forensic pathologist. While her husband and their toddler held down the home front, Judy threw herself into the fascinating world of death investigation—performing autopsies, investigating death scenes, counseling grieving relatives. 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.

Fascinating Field

I knew very little about forensic pathology or the work of a medical examiner before reading this book. I wouldn’t say I know a lot now, but it’s always nice to be informed about other industries and careers. And who knows, maybe someday all of my criminal investigations reading will prove useful.

Not for Weak Stomachs

If you’re squeamish about medical details, this may not be a good read for you. I’ll admit to skimming some paragraphs. You’d think it would be easy to read about a medical exam, but if you’re like me, your brain will busily recreate the scenario and you’ll start imagining someone slicing through your skin and breaking open your chest cavity. (Did that give you shivers? If so, you will definitely struggle with some of Dr. Melinek’s descriptions.)

Surprisingly Poetic

In between the chaos of NYC and the grossness of dead bodies, Melinek reflects on life, death, and humanity. I found her depiction of the 9/11 scene especially moving, as she described all of the dedicated workers who sifted through rubble for hours on end, some of them for months following the attack.

Expand Your Horizons

Working Stiff is an excellent read for anyone who wants to learn more about an often misunderstood or invisible field.

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