Review: The First Cut by Judy Melinek & T.J. Mitchell

Title: The First Cut by Judy Melinek & T.J. Mitchell
Publisher: Hanover Square Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


A young rookie medical examiner. A suspicious case. An underworld plot only she saw coming.

From the New York Times bestselling authors of Working Stiff

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 Cut by Judy Melinek & T.J. Mitchell is a riveting mystery starring Medical Examiner Jessie Teska.

Dr. Jessie Teska is settling into her new position at the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s Office following her abrupt resignation in Los Angeles. She is smart, inquisitive and tenacious which are excellent qualities that are sometimes underappreciated by her new bosses Chief ME James Howe and Deputy Chief ME Michael Stone.

Jessie’s first cases are interesting yet somewhat puzzling.  Eugene Chen is  brutally gunned down after stealing a laptop which begs the question what was on the computer that was worth killing for. Nursing student Rebecca Corchero dies from an apparent overdose but Jessie is not convinced her death is as straight forward as it appears.  Certain there is more to both cases than first meets the eye, Jessie defies her bosses as she attempts to uncover the truth about these unsettling deaths.

Jessie is undaunted as she uncovers a promising lead in the Chen murder case. With her brother Tommy’s assistance, she provides Assistant District Attorney Anup Banerjee with new information that could help with his prosecution. However, the deeper Jessie digs, she unearths details that could possibly link to another victim that has recently  been examined in the San Francisco ME’s Office. Will the investigators and Banerjee follow up on her evidence?

Jessie is deeply troubled by Rebecca Corchero’s death. With no evidence the young woman is a drug user,  Jessie is reluctant to label the case an accidental overdose. She is disturbed by some of her autopsy findings and despite pressure from Stone, she continues trying to find answers to her lingering questions.  Jessie discovers startling details that send shockwaves through the ME office. But will Howe give her the opportunity to continue her investigation?

The First Cut is a well-written mystery with a clever storyline and engaging lead protagonist. Jessie is a flawed yet immensely appealing woman. The investigations are quite fascinating as they take very unexpected turns.  Although savvy readers might connect the dots before Jessie, Judy Melinek & T.J. Mitchell bring this innovative mystery to a twist-filled, realistic conclusion.  A brilliant fiction debut that will leave fans of the genre eagerly awaiting the next novel starring Dr. Jessie Teskas.

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Filed under Contemporary, Hanover Square Press, Judy Melinek, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense, The First Cut, TJ Mitchell

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