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Working Stiff by Judy Melinek, MD (plus GIVEAWAY!)

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At the end of this post there will be a link you can click to enter a giveaway for a SIGNED hard copy of this book.

Some people have a firm idea of what being a medical examiner must be like: they swoop to the scene of a crime, wearing their best clothing, spend a few hours examining the body, then they hold a glamorous press conference to tell the world how  stray hairs and  stomach contents helped solve the crime.

Not so much. Becoming a medical examiner takes hard work, a strong stomach, the desire to see justice done, and the ability to listen to the dead speak. Dr Judy Melinek is one of those people, and Working Stiff is the story of her first two years as a rookie forensic pathologist. As luck would have it, she spent that time in the best classroom in the world: New York City, July, 2001. Not only did she experience the September 11th attacks firsthand, she also worked on the American Airlines flight 587 crash, and performed hundreds of other autopsies (both criminal deaths and natural causes).

Each chapter is about a different person, how they died, why they died, and how the cause of death was determined. Beware: there are extensive, gory, detailed descriptions of each body that would cause a normal person to gag, drop the book, and flee. However, if you are like me and enjoy reading about floaters, maggots, lividity, and a phenomenon known as “respirator brain”, then this is the book for you.  There are a great deal of fun facts that you will love learning, such as:

“I could tell right away Fanelli had died of hypothermia because his stomach lining, which is supposed to be smooth and pink, was instead deep crimson and pitted with dark brown ulcers. When  your core body temperature drops below 95 degrees, your body goes into a crisis management mode, cutting off the blood supply to nonessential organs in order to keep critical functions running. The interrupted blood to the stomach comes flooding back in the late stages of hypothermia and causes a reperfusion injury called leopard skin gastric cardia. To this day I have never seen a more clear case of it. Each body tells a story, and this one told the miserable story of a man freezing to death.” 

The author’s way of telling a story is honest and filled with wry humor.  Her emotions for the dead shine through, and her dedication to the job is evident, as she tells the story about a cold case that she solves with the help of a forensic anthropologist.  Every case has its own moral, and the resolution is often poignantly brought forth in a gentle way, thanks to the wonderful writing style of Dr Melinek. This book is unique in that you can learn something about how the body works, how humans handle death, and marvel at how the smallest of details can make a world of difference.

I truly enjoyed reading this, as it fits perfectly into my preferred genre. In fact, my only complaint is that it was too short–I hope Dr Melinek has another book on the horizon soon!

I have one SIGNED copy for giveaway; use the box below to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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3 Comments

  1. The blurb describes it as a real thriller…waiting to grab a copy

  2. The blurb describes it as a real thriller…waiting to grab a copy

  3. Sounds like a great book – excited to read it.

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