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Working Stiff

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

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


“Fun…and full of smart science. Fans of CSI—the real kind—will want to read it” (The Washington Post): A young forensic pathologist’s “rookie season” as a NYC medical examiner, and the hair-raising cases that shaped her as a physician and human being.

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.

An unvarnished portrait of the daily life of medical examiners—complete with grisly anecdotes, chilling crime scenes, and a welcome dose of gallows humor—Working Stiff offers a glimpse into the daily life of 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 television to reveal the secret story of the real morgue. “Haunting and illuminating...the stories from her average workdays…transfix the reader with their demonstration that medical science can diagnose and console long after the heartbeat stops” (The New York Times).

From Publishers Weekly

May 05, 2014 – In this engrossing tale of how Melinek became a forensic pathologist, she pulls back the sheet to show readers just what goes on after someone dies. Her caseload varies widely, and to help readers appreciate the job's mix of art and science, she outlines basic procedures and gives examples of the cunning detective work so often required, regularly sprinkling in bits of trivia. Melinek recognizes that it's sensational cases like murders that "everybody wants to hear about." She indulges readers' curiosity, but not at the expense of her larger story, which focuses on the breadth of her experience rather than a collection of anecdotes. This cumulative experience prepares readers for the book's most trying passages: Melinek's experiences working on victims of the 9/11 attacks in New York City. She respectfully and artfully relays the kaleidoscope of emotions that she and her coworkers endured as they struggled to first comprehend what had happened and then keep up with truckloads of bodies and body parts they were tasked with cataloguing. Though some sections call for a strong stomach, armchair detectives and would-be forensic pathologists will find Melinek's well-written account to be inspiring and engaging.

Customer Reviews

Well worth it

This book was difficult to read at times but was well written and incredibly informative. The section on 9/11 was especially poignant.

Fantastic, informative read

I picked this up the day it came out and plowed through it. It's hard to balance tasteful, informative and funny, particularly in the context of life in the Medical Examiners office, but the authors manage to do it. One of my favorite reads of the year.

Don't miss this one!

Fascinating, intelligent, human. Read the whole thing in one night. The best non-fiction I've read in years.

Working Stiff
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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Biographies & Memoirs
  • Published: Aug 12, 2014
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Print Length: 272 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings