I was in the mood for a a non fiction book and this one happened to be one I was interested in reading for a while and available at the library (both ebook and audiobook). Though I will admit, I was tagged by the lovely Zezee in a tag post a while back and one of the questions was the last non fiction book you read, which was ages ago so I needed something more recent. But! Now I have read one and can do that tag!
Published: August 2014
Publisher: Scribner/Tantor Audio
Pages: 258 (hardcover)
Star Rating: 4
Genera: Non-fiction (science)
Source: Read was via audiobook through library Overdrive account
TIGGER WARNING: EVERYTHING. I’m not lying here, if you have triggers for almost anything, I would recommend not reading this book. I was keeping a list but it was hard to include everything. Here is an incomplete list of things that my trigger people: death, dead bodies, graphic violence, suicide, drug use, alcohol abuse, rape, assault, child abuse, terrorism, self harm, bugs/insects, airplane crashes, police incompetence. The only thing I think it doesn’t have is animal abuse, but it’s been a while since I read the book so I might have forgotten if it did.
My typical breakdown of the plot, writing, characters, and world-building does not really work for a non-fiction book, and I want to be more conscious of the fact that I was reading an audiobook and to review that as well (since narrators can make or break a book) so I’m experimenting in this review.
This book chronicles the a short period of time in the life of a forensic pathologist working as a medical examiner in New York City. Basically, the person that does autopsies on dead people to determine cause of death. It covers the span of time that includes the aftermath of 9/11, of which there is a whole two sections of the book devoted to that.
Overall, I really liked this book. It was interesting and informative. I learned some things and heard some new and interesting stories. The parts on 9/11 were particularly informative since I had never thought about the aftermath at all (Canadian, was young at the time and sheltered from it). I do find it weird to rate a book about someone’s life, but I gave the book 4 stars for overall enjoyment, but there were a few things that I didn’t quite like.
For starters, if you like to know the outcomes of all the cases talked about, this book is not for you. There were a few cases I was particularly invested in, one was a child abuse case, but due to the nature of her job, Dr. Melinek does not get to know how the outcome for the cases she works on and this at times bothered me because I really wanted to know.
The writing style isn’t anything special and it took a bit to get into, but at the same time the informalness of it works great for this book. It was written in a way that listening to an audiobook was the perfect way to read the book, so I was glad I picked audio. The narration was a little dramatic at times, sometimes it was repetitive, and it’s harder to skim over the basic science explanations of concepts I know well as an audiobook as opposed to reading on a page, but overall I was glad I listened to the audiobook. I will say, I wish there was a different narrator for this book. Eby did a great job and I would love to listen to her again, but her tone was too cheery for this book. While the author (Dr. Melinek) does seem to be a cheery person, when taking about the subject matter at hand the tone of voice used in this book didn’t seem right to me. Also, I will be petty but the narrator COULD NOT pronounce the name Andres properly and it drove me up the wall since it was a big case the the name was spoken a hundred times.
The structure of this books seemed a little weird at the start, since it’s not chronological. However, once I got to the part about 9/11 I realized why that was. It’s set-up where each chapter is more based around a theme, which works well and once you hit the 9/11 part you realize that everything she talked about previously was happening at the same time as the aftermath and it was just as important as 9/11 but would have been over shadowed if written more chronologically.
I enjoyed learning about the path she took to become a medical examiner. It’s something I love to hear about in people in general, but particularly in the science field (which I am a part of) because there are so many ways to get to the interesting jobs found int he field. Also being in the field, it was neat to learn new information I didn’t know before. Sure, I’m not a doctor but I have learned about sickle cell anemia, but didn’t know that fact she told in the book. At times the book did talk down to you if you have a background in science, but I know not everyone that reads it will be, so I didn’t mind too much. Also, learning tox reports takes months is eye opening. I knew it took a while, not the 24 hour turn around seen on TV, but I was thinking weeks to a month, not 3 or 4 months and sometimes more talked about in this book. It meant that final death certificates could take a year or more. It was interesting to learn this.
This book is not for squeamish people. I have a strong stomach for that sort of thing, often reading this book right before bed and not worrying about nightmares but there were times I was nauseous. Mostly because maggots gross me out.
Overall I would recommend this book if you are interested in it, but do realize it’s not for everyone and there are some gross and sad parts to the book.