First Cut is a debut medical mystery from the husband and wife writing team of Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner. Our main character, Dr. Jessie Teska, is (we assume) heavily based on Judy Melinek’s experience as an ME for Los Angeles and San Francisco. Jessie has left her job at the LA Medical Examiner’s office under something of a cloud, and has just started a new position in San Francisco. While contending with heavy workload, old and outdated equipment and facilities, Jessie comes across a case that seems, at first, to be a cut and dry case of accidental overdose. Yet, as Jessie looks deeper, suspicions grow that this death was anything but an accident, and may even be connected to another suspicious death. Jessie then proceeds to go full Lone Ranger, investigating the case – even interviewing witnesses. Conspiracies abound!
Unfortunately, most of the book that takes place outside of the ME’s office seems completely implausible. There are car chases (with Jessie’s Beemer – she LOVES to talk about her Beemer) and murder attempts, and I find it so hard to believe that witnesses would just offer up all of this info to a Medical Examiner and not the police. I found the writing to be a bit clumsy and stilted at times.
What I did enjoy was the actual medical part of the medical mystery. I am a big fan of peeking behind the curtain in any sort of job or industry, and I found the descriptions of how an ME office works and how an autopsy proceeds really fascinating.
I think what this boils down to is that I should have skipped the fiction and picked up a copy of Working Stiff, instead.