Working StiffWorking Stiff

Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner

By Judy Melinek, M.D., and T.J. Mitchell

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Published by Scribner | Hardcover | 272 pages | ISBN: 978-1476727257


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Reading Working Stiff with your Book Club?“Working Stiff” Book Club Discussion Questions

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Working Stiff Press Release and Reviews

The fearless memoir of a young forensic pathologist’s “rookie season” as a NYC medical examiner, and the cases—hair-raising and heartbreaking and impossibly complex—that shaped her as both a physician and a mother.

Just two months before the September 11 terrorist attacks, Dr. Judy Melinek began her training as a New York City forensic pathologist. With her husband T.J. and their toddler Daniel holding down the home front, Judy threw herself into the fascinating world of death investigation—performing autopsies, investigating death scenes, counseling grieving relatives. Working Stiff chronicles Judy’s two years of training, taking readers behind the police tape of some of the most harrowing deaths in the Big Apple, including a firsthand account of the events of September 11, the subsequent anthrax bio-terrorism attack, and the disastrous crash of American Airlines flight 587.

Lively, action-packed, and loaded with mordant wit, Working Stiff offers a firsthand account of daily life in one of America’s most arduous professions, and the unexpected challenges of shuttling between the domains of the living and the dead. The body never lies—and through the murders, accidents, and suicides that land on her table, Dr. Melinek lays bare the truth behind the glamorized depictions of autopsy work on shows like CSI and Law & Order to reveal the secret story of the real morgue.

About the Authors

tj-mitchell-dr-judy-melinekJudy Melinek, M.D. is a graduate of Harvard University. She trained at UCLA in medicine and pathology, graduating in 1996. Her training at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in New York is the subject of her memoir, Working Stiff, which she co-wrote with her husband. Currently, Dr. Melinek is CEO of PathologyExpert Inc., and works as a forensic pathologist in Oakland. She also travels nationally and internationally to lecture on anatomic and forensic pathology and she has been consulted as a forensic expert in many high-profile legal cases, as well as for the television shows E.R. and Mythbusters.

T.J. Mitchell graduated with an English degree from Harvard and worked in the film industry before becoming a full-time stay-at-home dad and screenplay consultant in 2000. He co-authored the New York Times bestseller Working Stiff with his wife, Dr. Judy Melinek, in 2014. He and Judy are currently collaborating on First Cut, the debut novel in a medical examiner detective-fiction series, while raising their three children in San Francisco.

Read Dr. Judy Melinek’s profile | Read Dr. Melinek’s blog | Read T.J. Mitchell’s blog

Links to Charities and Organizations:
American Association of Suicidology
The National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children
The Bridge Rail Foundation

Links to 9/11 Charities and Organizations:
Tuesday’s Children
The Michael Lynch Memorial Foundation
Voices of September 11th
National September 11 Memorial & Museum
Fealgood Foundation
9/11 Day of Service

Media Excerpts & Interviews:

This American Life: Crime scenes and the stories they tell, This American Life podcast 8/14/18
Dead Wrong: Jeffrey Brooks ‘accidental death’ theory shot down, The Courier-Mail, 8/13/18
What Does the Effect of a Bullet Fired From an AR-15 Look Like?,, 2018
Corpse flower definitely smells like a dead body, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/23/18
Even Dead Patients Complain, MedPage Today, 5/10/18
Bizarre Things That Happen to Your Body After You Die, Reader’s Digest 2018
The Mysterious Deaths That Rocked a Wealthy Southern California Enclave, Town & Country magazine 4/4/18
Expert Witness: Jury Duty–Inside the Box, Forensic Magazine 6/17
Expert: Grim search could take years, Daily Mail 6/18/17
Grenfell Tower fire interview, BBC Newsnight, 6/16/17
What It’s Like to Specialize in Forensic Pathology: Shadowing Dr. Melinek, AMA Wire, 5/10/17
How to Find a Qualified Forensic Pathology Expert, Forensic Magazine, 3/17
Roll up your sleeves for the dirtiest jobs in the Bay AreaSFGate/San Francisco Chronicle, 2/8/17
#DressLikeAWoman : Médecin légiste, je travaille en blouse, n’en déplaise à Donald Trump, L’Obs 2/8/17
MedicalSchoolHQ Podcast,Episode SS 24 : What is Forensic Pathology? Dr. Melinek Shares Her Story, 2017 ‪
21 Women Respond to Trump Telling Female Staff to ‘Dress Like a Woman’, Huffington Post, 2/3/17
Spinning Logic podcast episode #102 with Jason Harvey, air date 12/23/16
Infant Death Investigation: Asphyxia or SIDS? ,Forensic Magazine 12/6/16
The Strong Women’s Club podcast, air date 12/16
Cops Say Infant Was Strangled with Halloween Lights, Inside Edition, air date 11/16/16
Secret Recordings Reveal Flawed Death Investigation, Fox9 KMSP, air date 11/16/16
Keeping Death Investigations Free from Pressure by Julie Small for KQED’s California Report, 9/13/16
How Designer Drugs and the Opioid Epidemic Affect Modern Forensic Practice, Forensic Magazine 9/16
How Can a Family Best Work with a Coroner or Medical Examiner? Part II, Seven Ponds blog, 8/20/16
How Can a Family Best Work with a Coroner or Medical Examiner? Part I, Seven Ponds Blog, 8/13/16
Mind Your Manners: Where Death Certification Ends and Prevention Begins, Forensics Magazine 6/16
Talking With a Doctor Who’s a Real Working Stiff for, 4/14/16
O.J. Simpson Saga: Was Knife Used in Murders from Unaired TV Pilot?, Crime Watch Daily, aired 3/12/16
Reddit AMA, 3/10/16
Darkness Radio interview part 2 of 2, aired 3/1/16
Darkness Radio interview part 1 of 2, aired 3/1/16
Justice Scalia’s Unexamined Death Points to a Problem, opinion piece on, published 2/20/16
Crime & Science Radio, interview with author/host D.P. Lyle, air date 1/30/16
It’s Not About The Dead Body, Crime Watch Daily, air date 12/2/15
Interview with Forensic Pathologist Dr. Judy Melinek and Author TJ Mitchell with Miriam Slozberg, posted 11/27/15
Explain Things To Me with Anna Akana and Brad Gage, released 11/19/15
She’s the One They Call When You Die In Strange Ways, the Bill Carroll Show/KFI AM 640, air date 11/11/15
Five Case Studies in Forensic Toxicology, Forensic Magazine, 10/22/15
The Anton Savage Show, air date 10/14/15
Sword & Scale podcast, Episode 53, air date 10/3/15
7 Common Mistakes Regarding Autopsy Reports, Forensic Magazine, 9/9/15
In Deep with Angie Coiro, show #100, air date 9/5/15
The Ronn Owens Show, air date 7/28/15
AP/USA Today, Time Critical in Solving Bobbi Kristina’s Death air date 7/27/15
All Things Considered, Interview with Arun Rath re: Sandra Bland’s autopsy, air date 7/25/15
The Michael Dressler Show, air date 6/23/15
Anderson Cooper 360 Panel Discussion on DC Murders, air date 5/22/15
People Are Using #SorryMom To Confess Their Hilarious Sins on Mother’s Day on, 5/10/15
CNN Interview with Fredricka Whitfield re: Freddie Gray in-custody death, air date 5/2/15
Jamal Truelove – National Registry of Exonerations
“Cause of Death May Be Elusive to Find in SF Body Parts Case” by Evan Sernoffsky, SF Chronicle 2/5/15
NBC Bay Area: Goodwill Surveillance Video Show Person Pulling Suitcase in Body Parts Case, air date 2/2/15 (starts at 1:11)
STEELE INTERVIEWS: Judy Melinek, M.D. and T.J Mitchell [Working Stiff], by Amy Steele on Entertainment Realm, 1/31/15
89.3 KPCC’s “Take Two” with host Alex Cohen, air date 1/6/15 (interview begins at 15:25)
Radio New Zealand’s “Nine to Noon” with host Kathryn Ryan, air date 11/27/14
SiriusXM Radio’s “MIP” with Mark Thompson, air date 10/27/14
PBS NewsHour, “What the forensic evidence says about Michael Brown’s death”, air date 10/23/14
“Rewrite: The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell”, air date 10/23/14
The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, air date 10/22/14
Tantor Audio Interview with Mary Roach and Judy Melinek, MD
“LAHS Science and Technology Week features medical examiner”, Los Altos Town Crier 10/22/14
20 Questions: Judy Melinek, MD, Pathology by Juliet Farmer, 10/22/14
Moment Magazine, “Closing the Book of Life: A Jewish Forensic Expert on Death’s Mysteries”
The Dr. Oz Total Body Restart air date 9/30/14
Commentary on Colton Turner case, KVUE Austin, TX air date 9/17/14
WNYC’s “The Leonard Lopate Show”, air date 9/15/14
Radio MD’s “Body Language”
The Marilu Henner Show, air date 9/10/14
What Michael Brown’s Autopsy Tells Us, opinion piece published 8/21/14 article: “Multiple Possible Causes of Death”
KQED’s “Forum”, air date 8/13/14
KGO’s The Ronn Owens Show, air date 8/11/14
NPR’s “Science Friday” with Ira Flatow, air date 8/8/14
Anderson Cooper 360: MH17: Identifying the Victims
The Real CSI: Forensic Pathology & Death Investigation, Lecture given as part of the UCSF Osher Mini Medical School for the Public, 3/19/14
Workstew Podcast: Interview with Forensic Pathologist Dr. Judy Melinek & Writer  T.J. Mitchell
Dr. Phil Sept. 21, 2012: Deadly New Accusations: A Murder Mystery?
Dr. Drew on HLN: Attorney on Mansion Death: “Time to Reopen This”