Book Review: Working Stiff by Judy Melinek MD and TJ Mitchell

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 TJ and their toddler Daniel holding down the home front, Judy threw herself into the fascinating world of death investigation – performing autopsies, investigating death scenes, and counseling grieving relatives. Working Stiff takes readers behind the police tape to some of the most harrowing deaths in the big apple, including a firsthand account of the events of September 11, the subsequent anthrax bioterrorism attack, and the disastrous crash of American Airlines flight 587. Lively, action-packed and loaded with mordant wit, Working Stiff explores both the challenges and rewards of shuttling between the domains of the living and the dead

This book was lent to me by a nurse friend when we met post-pandemic to walk, talk and enjoy the sunshine. She pressed a small pile of books into my hands and insisted that they were great – they’d pretty much all been passed around the cardiology department at her hospital and now that she had them back she was passing them on again. It’s an obviously well-thumbed, well-loved book – I was expecting good things.

The book is well-written and easy to read; I settled into it happily yesterday afternoon and resurfaced only for those things that simply couldn’t be achieved whilst reading. When bedtime came I dipped in for ‘just five more minutes’ and then awoke to reality in the small hours of the morning somewhat bewildered by the amount of time shifted. I can reassure one and all that this is an all-enveloping read which will utterly consume you should you wish to indulge.

The tales of deceased New Yorkers was entertaining, intruiging and enlightening. I have to admit to being absolutely fascinated by the stories that accompany some to the grave, though this book absolutely reinforced to me that pathology is not my calling. I loved the in-depth anatomy, I lapped up the personal stories and I was utterly awed by the recounting of the 9/11 recovery and all that followed afterwards. I was not however prepared for the tales of ‘decomps’…. I’ll let you find out for yourself.

I recall my A&E placement in the third year of university, a friend was on the same placement and was lodging with us. We’d finished our shift and headed home to have dinner with my other half, and were chatting over the shift when I noticed an odd look on my partners face. He would later say that after months of the two of us talking work over dinner he didn’t think anything could turn his stomach any more. I would like to offer him up this book as a direct challenge to that statement. I had not long been at the book when I started my lunch yesterday (whilst reading), and for the first time since I started caring for others 11 years ago I found myself just a teensy bit queasy by the details of what the human body can do. Putting the book down did the trick, but I have to admit to being quite impressed – this book really does hold no punches.

Overall an excellent read with a lot of insight into both life and death. I strongly recommend it to anyone who enjoys the genre, and am intruiged to have discovered that the pair have written two further books. I shall be investigating further…

Published by BeckyBookBlog

My name is Becky and I run a blog about Books

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