Thursday, March 26, 2015

audiobook review: Working Stiff by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell

narrated by Tanya Eby

The basics: After completing a residency in pathology, Dr. Judy Melinek began a two-year rotation as a forensic pathologist in New York City in July 2001. Working Stiff is the story of those two years, and also the story of Judy's life and work.

My thoughts: The timing of Dr. Melinek's story certainly piqued my curiosity in a macabre way. It's such a big part of the book's description, that I was surprised it wasn't addressed earlier. Instead, Melinek (and her husband and co-writer T.J. Mitchell) tells her story more thematically than chronologically, which proves to be a very wise narrative choice.

Working Stiff begins with much insight into Melinek's life and choices than I expected. She talks about why she chooses pathology and how she and T.J. chose to get married. She speaks candidly about her father's suicide when she was a teenager. This personal narrative only serves to add to her insight, particularly as no one could (or perhaps should) disassociate death investigation from life. The emphasis is definitely on death investigation and what it means to be a forensic pathologist, and I was riveted. Melinek guides the reader through cases both ordinary and extraordinary. When she finally addresses the terrorist attacks of 9/11, I understood why she waited to tell one of the chronologically earlier stories last. As a reader, I wasn't ready to hear this tragic story earlier. By serving instead as the book's climax, it reminds the reader precisely how rare, bizarre, and devastating it was.

The verdict: Working Stiff is a fascinating, illuminating, and haunting look at what kills people. It's also an insightful glimpse into Melinek's life and work. As a book, it reads like a collection of mysteries, but it also packs an emotional and intelligent punch.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 7 hours 43 minutes (272 pages)
Publication date: August 12, 2014
Source: purchased

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Working Stiff from Amazon (Kindle edition.) 

Want more? Visit Judy Melinek's website, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!


  1. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention and making it sound really appealing. In January, I read The Poisoner's Handbook, which is about the medical examiner's office in New York in the 1920s, when toxicology was only just starting to be a science. I think this would be a great follow-up.

    1. Thanks for that suggestion. I will pick it up from the library!

  2. I love the sound of this one, but worry I'd find the details disturbing. Is it gruesome?

    1. Hmmm. I did find the parts about 9/11 disturbing. In the more routine death investigations, I didn't it find it gruesome. She manages a really nice balance of science and humanity, but the human toll of 9/11 was as devastating as I've ever thought in this book. Would definitely be curious what you think if you read it!


Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!