This was easily one of the best books I’ve read, especially in the last year or two. It aims at a very specific type of reader, but if you like non-fiction medical stuff, technical and occasionally gory, with a sense of humor — then try it. If you like Mary Roach, particularly Gulp — try this. The writing style and subject reminded me a lot of her work.
“Mine is a gruesome job, but for a scientist with a love for the mechanics of the human body, a great one.”
Dr. Judy Melinek originally wanted to become a surgeon, but switched to forensic pathology during her residency because — unsurprisingly — the hours are better. We get a brief history on Melinek, including her father’s suicide when she was a teenager, which she brings up a few times later in the book. Then we launch into the main subject — her two years working in the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in New York City. She covers a variety of cases — homicides, suicides, weird accidents, natural causes — explaining in great detail how and why each step is performed during the course of not only the autopsy itself, but the identification, working with the police, dealing with the scene — everything.
Melinek started her internship in the summer of 2001, which means she had been working for the medical examiner for about nine weeks when September 11th happened. She spent close to a year working on identification of the bodies found at the scene, including weeks of 12 hour shifts rotating on and off site. She describes it all vividly and without exaggeration, and this section of the book in particular really affected me.
This was an incredible read. Don’t miss it!