Sunday, January 5, 2020

Book Review: First Cut, by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

“The Avenues go into the forties?” Tommy quipped when I called to ask if he would check it out. My tech-serf little brother had left our hometown of Lynn, Massachusetts, years before and had gone native in Northern California just as I had done in Los Angeles, and he was willing to do the apartment-search legwork for me as I prepared for the move to San Francisco.

He called me back that same night.

“You have got to rent that place.”

Tommy is a man of few words. Infernally few, sometimes.

“Why do I got to rent it, Tomasz?”

“It’s a cable car!”


“A cable car! It got dumped out in the sand dunes like a hundred years ago.”

“But it’s listed as a house.”

“Somebody jacked the thing up and built a foundation, then added a kitchen and toilet.”

“A cable car house…?”


Send pictures, I told him.

I really like books where I learn something. This book telling the story of a new-to-San Francisco medical examiner had plenty of technical details of autopsies which definitely taught me a few things (that I’ll probably never need to know).

Official synopsis:
Book Review: First Cut, by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell
For San Francisco’s newest medical examiner, Dr. Jessie Teska, it was supposed to be a fresh start. A new job in a new city. A way to escape her own dark past.

Instead she faces a chilling discovery when an opioid-overdose case contains hints of something more sinister. Jessie’s superiors urge her to close the case, but as more bodies land on her autopsy table, she uncovers a constellation of deaths that point to an elaborate plot involving drug dealers and Bitcoin brokers.

Drawing on her real-life experiences as a forensics expert, Judy Melinek teams up with husband T.J. Mitchell to deliver the most exhilarating mystery of the year. Autopsy means “see for yourself,” and Jessie Teska won’t stop until she has seen it all—even if it means that the next corpse on the table could be her own.

The first autopsy in the book is the precursor to Dr Teska’s move to a new job in San Francisco. While she tries to put her past behind her and prove herself in her new department, one of her first autopsies in the new job reminds her a little too much of the past she left behind. Looking at the case gives her more and more reason to question what led to the death.

Due to the close scrutiny of Dr Teska, some of the deaths that seem to be almost accidental soon appear related. The twists and turns of the plot were unpredictable to me. Only with further research outside of the morgue does Dr Teska start proving more and more relationships between decedents and those accused of causing the deaths. Before long even those close to her new life are under suspicion.

I’d give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars and look forward to seeing more of Dr Jessie Teska and her investigations.

{click here to pre-order - First Cut will be available on January 7, 2020}

Becki Bayley loves organization, magical realism, and happy endings. She also blogs at


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