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

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  11,767 Ratings  ·  1,446 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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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…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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j e w e l s [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
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 polished as Stiff nor was it as focused as Good Mourning but I certainly enjoyed listening to this. 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,
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
Petra X
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".
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 ...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
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
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 02, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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’m ...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

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.
Rita Meade
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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)
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.

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
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
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
Rebecca McNutt
Working Stiff has morbid written all over it, but actually it surprised me. It's a graphic yet tasteful and respectful memoir of a New York medical examiner's grisly career and how she coped with it over time, as well as how her work helped grieving families and friends find closure.
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.
Jun 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Once I became an eyewitness to death, I found that nearly every unexpected fatality I investigated was either the result of something dangerously mundane, or of something predictably hazardous. So don't jaywalk...You know that yellow line on the subway platform? It's there for a reason. Staying alive, as it turns out, is mostly common sense. Judy Melinek

After reading this book I really wish I had become a medical examiner...weird I know ;-) It was fascinating.

The one thing that would probably m
Nov 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
While I was reading this book I kept walking around my house saying "This is fascinating." to the point that I started the sentence and my daughter finished it. I don't read much non-fiction but I have a fascination with death and what happens to your body after you die. That's why I picked this up. Maybe it's because we don't really talk about it as a society. It's too taboo or gross or a combination of both I don't know.

This book covers the first year of Dr. Melinek's fellowship in NYC as a me
9/3 - Reading this, I feel like this it's the true story of Kay Scarpetta, for the new century. I like Melinek's voice and style of writing and her irreverent way of looking at death. I love the way she describes her reaction to shows featuring characters doing her job - the fact that they go to every crime scene, the women wear their good high-heeled shoes, they actually help with the investigation. From now on CSI will be light-hearted crime fiction, in the same league as those 'cosy mysteries ...more
Sonja Arlow
‘Let conversation cease. Let laughter flee. This is the place where Death delights to help the living.’

I am completely, over the top, irrationally fond of books about medicine and/or the macabre and apparently have the extremely annoying habit of sharing choice trivia I pick up in these books, to the horror of my friends (so those of you that I see offline, brace yourselves for some really gruesome tidbits)

This book takes the form of memoir, forensic crime investigation, pathology and weird-shit
Alissa Patrick
Feb 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really loved this book. This is a non-fiction account of a woman's 2 year stint as a New York Medical Examiner, a profession I always found fascinating even though it gives me the heebie jeebies.

The stories are of course gross at times (doing the autopsy of a construction worker who had a beam fall on his head). Sometimes the stats are informative and funny (if you die alone with your pet, the dog will lay by your body in mourning.... your cat? Will start eating you that day)

I was enjoying th
Jan 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is a collaboration between Judy Melinek and her husband T.J. Mitchell. Together they describe Judy's time training in forensic pathology at NYC Medical Examiner's Office. So if you've ever wondered what it's like to be a real forensic pathologist, here's your chance.

Perhaps most notably, Melinek was in NYC during the Sept 11th attacks and was thus part of the grueling identification process, which often depended on DNA extracted from lone teeth as a means of identification. Her descrip
Kylie H
May 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime
This book is gruesome, mind bogglingly horrific and absolutely true! That is what I had to keep reminding myself. This is a personal account of Judy Melinek's two years working as a forensic pathologist with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in New York.
I have found out information about decomposing bodies, burns and dismemberment that I did not know were possible. And given that Judy's time there encompassed September 11, 2001 and the scale that OCME had to deal with in deaths is beyond
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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. Currently, Dr. Melinek is an Assistant Clinical Professor at UCSF, and works as a forensic pathologist in San Francisco. She a ...more
“There are no emergency autopsies,” another resident pointed out to me. “Your patients never complain. They don’t page you during dinner. And they’ll still be dead tomorrow.” 11 likes
“Staying alive, as it turns out, is mostly common sense.” 8 likes
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