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

Judy Melinek, Author, T J Mitchell, Author
Judy Melinek, M.D., and T.J. Mitchell. Scribner, $25 (272p) ISBN 978-1-4767-2725-7
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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. (Aug.)
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