Working Stiff is a fascinating look at the inner workings of a real forensic pathologist. While Judy Melinek’s day to day job scarcely resembles the medical examiners you’ve see on TV her memoir is ten times more interesting that any Law & Order episode I’ve seen recently. Judy Melinek went to medical school with the plan to become a surgeon but the unrelenting schedule and her boyfriend’s hesitation to marry a surgeon led her into forensic pathology (and a happy marriage!)
Mine is a gruesome job, but for a scientist with a love for the mechanics of the human body, a great one.
I don’t recommend you read this one while eating as Dr. Melinek gets graphic in her descriptions of the hundreds of autopsies she conducted during the two years she worked for the New York medical examiner’s office. She organizes her cases by theme (suicide, homicide, therapeutic complications etc) vs chronologically so this reads more scientifically than autobiograpgically but she shared numerous personal details throughout her retellings. Most interestingly, and hauntingly, is that Melinek’s tenure began only two months before the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and she devotes two chapters to the process of cataloging the bodies and body parts that came from the rubble in order to give the countless mourners in New York some closure.
While her involvement in the 9/11 autopsies may be the more flashy plot point it is no more interesting than her other experiences. Part doctor, part detective Melinek’s job helped to shine a light on the final moments of nearly 250 people during the two years she trained in New York. If you don’t have a weak stomach I would highly recommend this one to nonfiction lovers!