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Dead Center: Behind the Scenes at the World's Largest Medical Examiner's Office

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  286 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
A city with eight million people has eight million ways to die

For fifteen years, Shiya Ribowsky worked as a medicolegal investigator in New York City's medical examiner's office--the largest, most sophisticated organization of its kind in the world. During that time, he led the investigations of more than eight thousand individual deaths, becoming a key figure in some of N
Paperback, 262 pages
Published 2007 by HarperCollins (first published September 1st 2006)
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(showing 1-30 of 993)
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Dead Center: Behind the Scenes at the World's Largest Medical Examiner's Office was not quite what I was expecting. I found the forensic information, exploration of the common myths of forensic science and Shiya Ribowsky's behind-the-scenes look at the role of PA’s and the working of the ME’s Office incredibly fascinating. However, I found the second half of the book rather tedious, which focused on the identification and information management processes that were implemented in NYC following th ...more
Elizabeth Nesbit-comer
An interesting read about crime scene investigation. All of the identification information was a bit too much for me. I skimmed through quite a bit of it.
Also, the author comes off as quite arrogant, but that may be due to the writing style which is very "I" focused...then on the other hand the photo on the back had me cracking up... seriously, a cemetery photo??
Mandy Huot
Although the title interested me, I quickly discovered that the majority of the book was self-centered on the author, and not totally on the job. I was hoping it would be more telling of the career and not on the author himself and how he managed his time as ME and cantor for church.
Apr 07, 2009 Katie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating...during the parts where he describes crime scene investigation, autopsies, and the tremendous tragedy of identifying the bodies from 9-11. Unfortunately, the rest of the book is sort of passive, annoying boasting.
Katie/Doing Dewey
Feb 20, 2013 Katie/Doing Dewey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Dead Center we get to learn about a part of society that most of us probably don’t think about very much – what happens to our bodies when we die. This could be a very morbid or gruesome topic, but the author focuses on a variety of things other than the gore. First, we learn about what challenges face MLI’s (medicological investigators), including everything from identifying cause of death to interacting compassionately with grieving families. We also learn what characteristics make a good M ...more
Jul 09, 2013 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
A fascinating look at the work of a Medico-Legal Investigator for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in NYC. I only meant to peek at it for a second and ended up reading the whole thing in an afternoon. The running of the morgue and the work with doctors and hospitals and police and families was very fascinating. (Interestingly, the medical advisor at my job has made statements agreeing with the author that most doctors do not have the foggies idea how to fill out a death certificate and t ...more
Chelsey Langland
The author worked as a medicolegal examiner for the NYC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. His job was to go into the field when a dead body was located, and determine whether it needed to come in for autopsy or whether it was obviously a natural cause. After working there for years, he was elevated to the position of chief of identifications, which was the position he held on 9/11.

I bought the book for the 9/11 aspect, which was interesting. The process they went through, to the tune of abo
The author is a PA, so that hooked me right there. It is exciting to learn about the amazing things that PA's are doing in the world.
To say that I enjoyed the book might lead some to believe that I am a bit morbid....a book about the medical examiners office in NYC would not appeal to everyone, but I guess I am a bit morbid. I liked reading the apalling/appealing stories of how people have died and what our society says is ok to do behind closed doors to them.
It was a fast easy read, but I pro
Nov 13, 2008 Granny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in forensics
Shelves: non-fiction
The first third of this book dragged. I am nuts for books about forensics and it's rare for me to be bored with the topic! The most riveting part of the book dealt with identifying remains from the Twin Towers after 9/11 -- the scope of the task, how the identification process was set up, etc. After reading about it, I am amazed that so many bodies were eventually identified. This book would be of interest to readers interested in forensics, if you can get past the portions that drag. The book c ...more
Nov 27, 2010 Rae rated it liked it
First half of the book: 4 stars for all the forensic information and a pretty clear and detailed description of the New York Medical Examiner's office and daily activity. I also enjoyed the personal information the author shared about his Jewish background.

Second half of the book: 2 stars for not being as good as the first half. I was disappointed that the World Trade Center bombings and subsequent victim identification process pretty much took over the rest of the book.

All in all, quite an inte
Jun 08, 2011 Nicole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fascinating glimpse into a world I only know about from TV shows. It was very well written and brought up things I couldn't even fathom--like doctors fudging on cause of death, people pronounced dead at scenes of a crime who were actually still alive, and all sorts of intriguing insider's glimpses into the 9/11 disaster and recovery. It pulls no punches when it comes to descriptions of autopsies and crime scenes, so you'll need a strong stomach.
Jun 19, 2010 Leslie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
A fascinating look into the workings of New York City's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, and at the work they did to identify victims of the WTC bombings. At times slightly gruesome, this book is not for the faint of heart.

One complaint: poor editing! I found four instances where the author and/or editor used "then" when he should have used "than", along with other errors like the word "think" showing up where the author meant "thing".
Jan 01, 2011 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, non-fiction
An interesting read about the inner workings of the Chief Medical Examiner's Office in New York City. Unlike a lot of the other reviewers, I found the section about their response to the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent identification efforts fascinating. Perhaps it wasn't their cup of tea, but it will be of interest to science buffs.
Feb 09, 2010 Nick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
An interesting book that details the work of a Medicolegal Investigator or in layman's terms a death scene investigator. He had some very interesting stories, although some were a little graphic. The last third was tough because it dealt the work in identifying the victims in 9/11 and informing their families.
Mar 09, 2010 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read from the head of the Medical Examiner's office in New York City. Most attention will be on the descriptions of the logistics of handling the aftermath of 9/11 but there are plenty of other interesting anecdotes from a world spent with the dead.
Aug 27, 2012 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book alot. It was interesting following along with him to find gruesome death scenes. I also enjoyed his stint working on the set of Law & Order. The work he did with the WTC victim's families was very heartfelt.
Aug 20, 2008 Kristy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This was an interesting look at how the ME's Office works in NYC. It also offers a behind the scenes look at the processing and procedures involved in 9/11. Given that I considered being an ME, I found this to be facsinating!
Janet Carroll
Mildly disappointing. This book is probably more a memoir or even autobiography. The writer explains his decision to eschew the orthodox Jewish lifestyle and attends college to become a Physician's Assistant (PA). After working at a clinic, he begins law school but is disappointed in the subject matter but finds that he is interested in a medicolegal position with the New York City ME's office. Anecdotes, procedures, and practices are described, but four chapters are given over to 9/11 attacks a ...more
Jul 07, 2008 Amber rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This was an OK read. I learned a whole lot about the cleanup efforts after the WTC bombing and about New York City's OCME in general, but I have to say someone should have told the authors that it's better to show than to tell. The writing style was amazingly teacherly and lacked any zip -- he tells us he was upset or elated or moved, but not by what. This could have been a five-star effort if they had gone ahead and described what they were talking about.
James Glass
I found the first 40 pages or so of the book to be very insightful, but the the author seemed to go off course. I felt the author started off with giving some great detail in the mind of a medical examiner. Then he seemed to go on various tangents on his opinions of the human psychology. All in all a good read, but I think it could have been much better if the author allowed his voice to drive the story instead of trying to force it on us.
Jun 27, 2014 Joseph rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A revolting attempt to capitalize on one of the biggest tragedies in the history of the world. Author is obviously narcisistic and the length of the book is bloated. In the introduction the author includes a "Dead-ication" rather than a "dedication": a tasteless attempt at humor.
Brittney Martinez
I was recommended this book after reading Working Stiff and really enjoying it. I would have to say that Dead Center is not as strong a book as Working Stiff. It's very informative, and the author held a position of power at the OCME so he is able to expound more on administrative side of the medical examiner's office, but he lacked the voice that made Working Stiff so enjoyable.
Rita Ciresi
Dec 12, 2015 Rita Ciresi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating look at the hidden industry of identifying the dead and how they got that way. I really like the way that the author opens the book with 9/11, then steps back and walks us through how he came to work in the medical examiner's office. After explaining what he does/did on a regular basis--and describing with gallows humor some of the more unusual cases--he then returns to that fatal day in September and gives us insight into how and why the city made every effort to identify ...more
Apr 14, 2015 Margi rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The first few pages capture reader interest when explaining his involvement during the 9/11 attack identifications. The rest of the book is boring. The summary is misleading.
This was a very detailed book. Slow beginning but got very interesting.
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
This has, if you will pardon me, one of the most visceral descriptions of an autopsy that I've ever encountered. Recommended for all forensic pathology geeks.

Memoirs that start near the end and then go back to the beginning are starting to get on my nerves a bit, but ah well.
Aug 02, 2011 Sophia rated it really liked it
I really like the way the author explained how he got his job at the OCME and what he did there. Makes me jealous. I want a cool job like that. I knew I should have studied to be a Pathology Assistant - next on my list of things to do...
This would've received four stars if it wasn't for the section on September 11th. All of the forensic stuff involved in the recovery process was fascinating but I felt it got a little preachy/sappy at times.
Oct 21, 2007 Erin rated it really liked it
First half read like a CSI show, second half was a bit more serious with the discussion of ID'ing the remains of the WTC victims (which had some interesting facts, but was rather drawn out and lengthy).
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Shiya Ribowsky is the former director of special projects at the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office. He is one of America’s most experienced medicolegal investigators. Also the forensics consultant to Law & Order, he lives in Long Island, New York.
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