Published: August 2014
Working Stiff was provided by the publisher in return for an honest review
This book was fascinating! I have always had a love for anatomy and physiology. When studying Veterinary Nursing it was one of my favorite topics. In another life to be a coroner would have been a dream job. A little weird but I love the thought of being given the answer and having to work your way back to the beginning.
As the title suggests, this book documents Judy's journey through the 262 bodies that made her a medical examiner.
The bodies on Judy's table find their way to her in very different ways from suicide to accident to murder. Each chapter is dedicated to a different body and how that body was able reveal the story of how the person met his or her end. I really admired Judy's ability to write about the deceased in a respectful way. Books centered around this subject matter can often be very cold but this wasn't the case here. Working still has the perfect balance between emotion and science. I was particularly impressed with her ability to deal with loved ones. Especially loved ones who seemed to have trouble coming to terms with the cause of death. I've met many scientists and doctors who are seem to be void of empathy. She seemed to have time for everyone. she even took the time to lay out bones in a funeral style so the family could see them before the burial, allowing them some sense of closure.
As for the autopsies themselves they are incredibly well detailed. She thoroughly describes the process from start to finish. This may be slightly off putting for the more squeamish reader but I loved it.
I learned so much from reading this book. For example: contrary to what crime fiction and documentaries would have us think, medical examiners are not in and out of court every other day. Only on rare occasions was Judy asked to give evidence in court and most of the time she never learned the final outcome as she was just so busy! The majority of deaths are natural causes or accidental.
The final few chapters take saddening turn as Judy is called on to help identify bodies after the attack on the twin towers. The profound effect this had on her really came through in the writing. I can't imagine what it must have been like to be faced with hundreds of body parts and to be responsible for trying to identify a body from a ring or a polished fingernail. She really is an admirable person.
I found this book utterly engrossing. If you're interested in science, the human body and what really happens on the autopsy table then this book is for you!