First Cut


My Review

First a thief is killed after stealing a laptop and the laptop is taken back by the shooter. Then a prostitute is killed for the drugs hidden in her digestive system. But when a nurse with no history of drug use is found dead of an overdose, new medical examiner Jessie Teska becomes suspicious. Are these deaths related? The answer is in First Cut, the first fiction book from the Working Stiff writing team.

With a real medical examiner as one of the authors, this book is brutally authentic. I mean that in a good way. In fact, that is my favorite part of the book. Gory, but realistic, details of what happens to humans when they die are fully immersed in this amateur detective procedural. Who knew that animal scavengers eat their human victim’s eyes and lips first. Other details also seem genuine like thieves using a spark plug to break car windows. Another detail is the fact that Jessie and Tommy, her brother, are both deep into Polish culture and I don’t recall any other thrillers that I have read that address that culture. Jessie does have a love interest, or two.

Overall, if you like medical thrillers, you will love First Cut too. I adored the graphic details. If that is not your taste, I would suggest skipping this book. For me, it is definitely worth 4 stars and I’m looking forward to the next in the series!

Thanks to Hanover Square Press, Harlequin Books, and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Book Summary


Author: Judy Melinek & T.J. Mitchell

ISBN: 9781335008305

Publication Date: January 7, 2020

Publisher: Hanover Square Press

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 (Hanover Square Press; Hardcover; January 7, 2020; $26.99)—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.

About the Authors

Judy&TJ (c)Amal Bisharat

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.

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