In Dr. Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell’s First Cut, medical examiner Dr. Jessie Teska works on the victims of “sudden, violent, and unexpected deaths,” from accidents to suicide to murder. And in Jessie’s first week at her new job, a homicide case launches her life into chaos: A young woman has died from a drug overdose and, it turns out, used to work for one of Jessie’s mercurial new bosses. His reaction makes Jessie wonder if it’s an innocent connection or something darker—but how will she balance a proper investigation with complicated, unfamiliar office politics?
Questions mount and danger rises as Jessie strives to juggle a heavy caseload, leave past hurts behind and figure out whom she can (and cannot) trust. Drug dealers, detectives, lawyers and bitcoin brokers figure into this atmospheric, San Francisco-set tale, which is peppered with humor thanks to Jessie’s wit, as well as Bea the high-spirited beagle and Sparkle the whip-smart bail-bonds lady. Jessie’s forays into dating and romance add sexy fun, and her musings on our collective corporeal vulnerability are by turns humbling (“The cops could drag their feet and stonewall . . . all they want. The body never lies.”) and alarming (à la lists of cases like “jaywalker hit by a bus, a gunshot suicide, a skateboard versus a hydrant, and a stabbing homicide”).
The married authors—whose first book was the bestselling 2014 memoir Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner—expertly employ their know-how, maintaining blood-and-guts vérité while empathetically exploring what it’s like to do a job with actual life-and-death stakes. First Cut is a fascinating, entertaining series kickoff, with a particularly kickass heroine.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our Q&A with Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell.