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

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  17,143 ratings  ·  1,999 reviews
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
Hardcover, 258 pages
Published August 12th 2014 by Scribner
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T.J. Mitchell Hi, Angelica—no, I'm afraid no one has published a Spanish language translation of Working Stiff yet. Follow us by liking the Facebook page Dr. Workin…moreHi, Angelica—no, I'm afraid no one has published a Spanish language translation of Working Stiff yet. Follow us by liking the Facebook page Dr. Working Stiff, and we'll post an update if we get the news that one is in the works!(less)
Megan Price I enjoyed reading about the September 11th cases/stories. They definitely hit close to home and I'll never look at another airplane the same way again…moreI enjoyed reading about the September 11th cases/stories. They definitely hit close to home and I'll never look at another airplane the same way again. (less)

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Miranda Reads
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
Not for the faint of heart

While I was on my 'people who work with dead-bodies' kick ( Stiff, Good Mourning), I stumbled upon this gem.

This book wasn't as research-heavy as Stiff nor was it as focused as Good Mourning but I certainly enjoyed listening it. This one was able to give a fascinating medical examiner's perspective on the deceased.

As described in the title, this book covers the bodies Judy Melinek tacked throughout her residency in a New York morgue.

She starts with the natural causes
j e w e l s
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-bejeweled

Dear Fiction Writers,

If you are looking for story ideas, read this non-fiction book! It's chock full of interesting deaths and fascinating details on the science of the human body.

I was gripped from the first page as Dr. Melinek begins her journey of training to be a medical examiner in New York City, 2001. She obviously found time (who knows how?!?!) to record in her daily journal for two years. Little did she realize she was about to play a crucial part as one of the investigators in
Apr 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
While the world of medicine is likely beyond the comprehension of many, there is always an interest in some of the more bizarre cases that make their way onto the public’s radar. These types of medical situations are anomalies, according to Dr. Judy Melinek, MD and TJ Mitchell, citing that the vast majority of medical cases are not worthy of a script on prime time television. After leaving her surgical residency, Melinek leapt at the chance to enrol in one focussed on pathology, with significant ...more
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it

4.5 stars

The work of a medical examiner (ME) is endlessly fascinating to the public, as evidenced by the many TV shows that feature forensic pathologists - like Quincy; Law and Order; CSI; NCIS; Rizzoli and Isles; Hawaii-Five-O and others. In fiction, pathologists often resolve their cases quickly - making lightning fast determinations, intuiting what happened, and (often) nabbing the culprit themselves.

This is very different from real life, where toxicology and DNA tests take months to process,
Greta G
A long time ago, I had to attend an autopsy for my work, concerning a case of a fatal accident. I wasn't glad with it, because the only time I saw a dead person up until then, was some 15 years earlier, when I was twelve.
It was my nephew, of the same age, who had died in the bathroom after he fell while bathing and broke his neck. I still remember it clearly because we (my dad and I) had to wait in the hospital for about an hour and I was really nervous by the time we could visit him. I ran awa
Petra X in quarantine again with her kitties
I am so enjoying this book. The author has this strangely cheery tone. She loves her job and the corpses and loves especially discussing really bad wounds and how the people (whom she generally addresses by their first names) got them. Very odd. Maybe this is how professional pathologists and other forensic professionals really are and they are just kind of serious and sad in front of us "civilians". ...more
Feb 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell is a fascinating look into the world of a New York City medical examiner. Melinek hits the ground running in her new position examining victims of suicide, accidents, homicide and all forms of violent deaths. She also visits scenes where the bodies have been found. The book is written with a sense of dark humour, but is not offensive or disrespectful of the deceased that find their way to ...more
Montzalee Wittmann
Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek, T.J. Mitchell, Tanya Eby (Narrator) is a terrific audio book I picked up from the library! Wow! I have been a RN all my life and now retired but those faint of heart may not be able to read this. It is a bit detailed at what a medical examiner really does for a living and not the TV version. I was fascinated and horrified at some of the things that came through, maybe not at the bodies but what people do ...more
Dec 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
A very good book that's guaranteed to ruin CSI for you. (I quit watching years ago.) She does a great job describing what a busy city morgue is like. How she manages to wait for months for paperwork, deals with the crazed public, overworked police, & more just popped so realistically. A 'rush' on a tox screen meant only waiting a week, while a month wasn't unusual. She had to balance knowing part of the picture with releasing the body to relatives while accurately assessing the sort of death it ...more
Eva Celeste
3.5 stars. The memoirs of a forensic pathologist during the years of her fellowship, which placed her in NYC during the September 11 terrorist attack, helping to tag, bag, and attempt to identify the remains of victims from the WTC (as well as seeing an anthrax victim, and helping autopsy victims of a infamous plane crash.) It was co-written by her husband, who has an English degree from Harvard (more about that later).

Disclaimer: I am a medical doctor, but I am a geriatric psychiatrist. I had t
Debbie "DJ"
Oct 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, non-fiction
Can I just say OMG!

I learned a lot about exactly what a forensic pathologist does, and let me just say again, OMG!

Judy Melinek details every sort of disease and injury possible in a human body. Her account of her very worst case almost had me doubled over, but I was also fascinated. Hmm, not sure what this says about me!

I've got to mention her account of 9/11 as she was one of the pathologists involved in trying to identify all the bodies. Her details and descriptions were more horrifying than a
Krystin Rachel
Book Blog | Bookstagram

Opening Autopsy: Putting the Y-incision in a “Y-incision party!”
Main Medical Examiner: A nerd goddess
Plot Truthy-ness: Just a doctor who loves her work and wants to share it.

Oh. My. Fairy. Godmother. I loved this fucking book!

Judy Melinek is my new role model/inspiration board/personal icon.

No, no. Judy Melinek is my Patronus!

Yes, that feels right.

Goddamn, this was some good stuff.

Dr. Judy Melinek – amazing human being and most badass bitch I’ve read about it since I can’t
If you, like me, have a morbid fascination with the mechanics and aftermath of death (see The Removers by Andrew Meredith), you should love this book. Melinek is a forensic pathologist whose father committed suicide – perhaps an early source of her obsession with dead bodies. An exchange with her husband (co-writer T.J. Mitchell) early on gives a flavor of her macabre tone: “‘We even call it an “eggshell skull fracture.” Isn’t that cool?’ ‘No,’ T.J. replied, suddenly ashen. ‘No, it isn’t.’ I ...more
Oct 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Carol by: Jean
If you want a GREAT Halloween read, what better place to start than in a spooky smelly morgue with dead bodies everywhere. Forensic Pathologists study the causes and effects of human diseases and injury in this UNPUTDOWNABLE non-fiction novel that I found extremely interesting, informative and, at times, SCARY AS HELL! It had me thinking about what I put in my body for sustenance, checking out the whites of my eyes and worrying about occasional slightly swollen ankles.

Be forewarned this book is

Valerity (Val)
This was a fascinating audiobook written by a woman doctor as she goes to New York to complete her forensic pathology training. She moves there with her husband TJ and young son Daniel and begins her work at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. I became so engrossed in listening to the different cases, that I ended up staying up all night listening to the entire thing.

I try not to read too much of the hype info before I get into the book, so I wasn’t aware of the 2 disasters that she worked
Nov 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Featured on my 2014 favourites list!

Actual Rating 4.5

I like reading a wide variety of books. Fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, young adult, biographies, science, history... You name it!

But there’s no denying that some are a lot easier to read than others.

While I love reading about people’s lives and absorbing facts, I’d be kidding myself if I thought those books took the same amount of time or effort as a well written novel. No matter how well written said non-fiction book is in and of itself.

L.A. Starks
Jul 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Dr. Melinek and her husband, T.J. Mitchell, have written a superb book about Dr. Melinek's experience as a forensic pathologist in NYC.

She discusses the horrible and hectic time right after 9-11 and gives experienced insight into the many cases--including similarities and differences--on which she's worked.

This book is a valuable reference that contains many movingly true stories.
Oh my gosh, I enjoyed this to bits.

But first, I must relate my story regarding this book. I'm going to put it under a spoiler tag in case you want to skip it. It's long. As are most of my boring stories.

(view spoiler)
Feb 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
I read this as part of my 2015 goal to read more non-fiction books.

I think I am off to a great start!

Judy Melinek is a medical examiner in training after she drops out of her surgery residency after collapsing during one of her 130 hour workweeks. She uproots her family and moves to New York, beginning her training two months before September 11th.

Nobody cares about when you're alive, but lots of people take interest when you are dead.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. I expected some
Mariah Roze
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read this book for the local My Favorite Murder Book Club and loved it. Its about a rookie forensic pathologist.

Judy joined the world of death investigation, performing autopsies, investigating death scenes, and counseling grieving relatives. This book chronicles Judy's training. She shared her firsthand account of the events of September 11 and the crash of American Airlines flight 587.

This was a super interesting book! I learned so much information on positions that I wasn't very educated on
Sep 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
November 2020: Upping this to four stars. It has stuck with me more than any other medical examiner/forensic pathologist memoir I've read.
My favorite part of Law and Order is when the detectives visit the morgue. "See these marks around the neck?", the medical examiner asks.

"Yeah," the grizzly cop says, "from hanging himself."

"If he hung himself they'd go upwards behind the ears, but these marks go straight back. He was strangled."

Stunned silence.

"You've got yourself a homicide."

I love th
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"Taceant colloquia. Effugiat risus. Hic locus est ubi mors gaudet succurrere vitae." -- posted at the lobby wall of the Office of Chief Medical Examiner of the City of New York (*translation: "Let conversation cease. Let laughter flee. This is the place where death delights to help the living.")

After graduating from UCLA's medical school in the mid-90's Dr. Judy Melinek began a surgical residency in her husband's hometown of Boston. After a year she soured on the almost-unrealistic demands a
Mar 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
WOW...just WOW!!! I did not think I would enjoy this as much as I being non-fiction and all..I always love a good juicy story! But all of that and more! Descriptive stories and backgrounds of Dr. Melinek's cases kept me turning the pages and bf I knew it I really couldn't put it down! This is definitely NOT for the weak stomachs..I loss my appetite a few times throughout the book...BUT..I would not change that for anything! I LEARNED SO MUCH! The amount of detail and ti ...more
Mar 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sep-14
Utterly Fascinating!
"Working Stiff" is the memoir of Judy Melinek, M.D. who spent two years training and working as a Forensic Pathologist at the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Her job is to determine cause of death and she discusses many of her cases, including murders, suicides, accidents, natural death and more.
She was part of the 9/11 recovery team and gives a heart-rending account of the process of finding human remains, categorizing them and returning confirmation to t
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Hands down I think this is one of the best books I've ever read containing factual medical information. Despite her introduction, preparing readers for a disaster, I was launched into stories of each autopsy and their medical counterparts and Melinek's own takeaways from each case.

I've never had a novel change the career I'd wanted to pursue, but this book has definitely caused me to start thinking about my options. Melinek's descriptions are true and accurate, but by no means are they boring.
Captive Audience
Dec 26, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
WARNING: This book treats suicide in a very offhanded, offensive manner. If you have ever dealt with suicide or had suicidal thoughts and that sort of attitude might cause problems for you, I STRONGLY RECOMMEND that you pass on reading it.

There. That’s the TL;DR version out of the way. Now let’s get into the meat and potatoes of why I dislike this book, and with another warning: I will be directly quoting this author’s statements about suicide. Please don’t read on if you think it’s going to ups
Feb 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Dr. Melinek tells a fascinating tale of her days as medical examiner in NYC. I am not great fan of crime and forensic shows on TV. This book is not like that but more about the details of the daily work of medical doctors in the morgue. What happened? What actually caused the death of a person? Dr. Melinek details in a clinical way how an autopsy is detective work on a dead body. I dont know if it is something I needed to know but it was utterly fascinating to find out the worst way someone died ...more
Feb 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
It was fascinating to learn about the life of a medical examiner, especially one who was working in New York City on September 11th, 2001. Dr. Melinek does a great job of describing the process and investigation that goes into determining cause and manner of death. I think many people assume that the medical examiner's determination is based solely on what is revealed by the autopsy, but Melinek also describes the process of interviewing friends, family and emergency personnel to determine the c ...more
May 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Is this non-fiction recital of two years' cases of performing NYC autopsies for the Coroner's designations perfect? Of course not. But it is blunt, honest, and Judy Melinek also resists all the usual Doctor syndrome aspects of hiding a personality, bias, feelings of an individual- behind the badge and highly authoritarian onus of the M.D. that is behind her name.

Rarely am I tempted to do a synopsis, rather than a reaction. For this one I am sorely tempted to tell you far more than just my take.
Jul 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, which is why Dr. Judy Melinek’s book, Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner, is a fascinating read for fiction writers and others, especially those with cast iron stomachs. Melinek is a forensic pathologist who teams up with author husband TJ Mitchell to recall stories and lessons learned while serving as a pathology fellow at the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Does anyone set out to establish ones
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Judy Melinek, M.D. is a graduate of Harvard University. She trained at UCLA in medicine and pathology, graduating in 1996. Her training at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in New York is the subject of her memoir, Working Stiff, which she co-wrote with her husband, T.J. Mitchell. Currently, Dr. Melinek is CEO of PathologyExpert Inc., & works as a forensic pathologist in Oakland, Californi ...more

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