Wife and husband duo Dr. Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell first enthralled the book world with their runaway bestselling memoir Working Stiff—a fearless account of a young forensic pathologist’s “rookie season” as a NYC medical examiner. This winter, Dr. Melinek, now a prominent forensic pathologist in the Bay Area, once again joins forces with writer T.J. Mitchell to take their first stab at fiction.
The result: FIRST CUT—a gritty and compelling crime debut about a hard-nosed San Francisco medical examiner who uncovers a dangerous conspiracy connecting the seedy underbelly of the city’s nefarious opioid traffickers and its ever-shifting terrain of tech startups.
Dr. Jessie Teska has made a chilling discovery. A suspected overdose case contains hints of something more sinister: a drug lord’s attempt at a murderous cover up. As more bodies land on her autopsy table, Jessie uncovers a constellation of deaths that point to an elaborate network of powerful criminals—on both sides of the law—that will do anything to keep things buried. But autopsy means “see for yourself,” and Jessie Teska won’t stop until she’s seen it all—even if it means the next corpse on the slab could be her own.
I won’t lie, part of the reason I was drawn to this book was because it is set in the Bay Area and that is one of my favorite settings for a book, but I was also really interested in the plot. I have not read from the M.E.’s point of view before, especially one that dives into cases and tries to unravel the mysteries of them. Needless to say I was intrigued.
This story was full of twists and turns, sometimes due to Dr. Teska’s decisions and assumptions, sometimes because of the actual crimes and criminals. I really enjoyed how things starts falling into place throughout the story. I also loved the personal touches such as Teska’s propensity to curse in Polish, her interactions with her brother and the hijinks of her dog.
I would keep in mind that this is told from the point of view of a M.E. so there are autopsy descriptions that are graphic, though matter of fact. If that kind of thing makes you squirmish please be aware of that.
Judy Melinek was an assistant medical examiner in San Francisco for nine years, and today works as a forensic pathologist in Oakland and as CEO of PathologyExpert Inc. She and T.J. Mitchell met as undergraduates at Harvard, after which she studied medicine and practiced pathology at UCLA. Her training in forensics at the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner is the subject of their first book, the memoir Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner.
T.J. Mitchell is a writer with an English degree from Harvard, and worked in the film industry before becoming a full-time stay-at-home dad. He is the New York Times bestselling co-author of Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner with his wife, Judy Melinek.
Instagram: Judy: @drjudymelinek