Life in America's Top Forensic Medical Center

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Pub Date 21 Feb 2023 | Archive Date 20 Jan 2023

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"Gripping . . . a brilliant insider's view." -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Go behind the scenes inside the nation's preeminent Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, where good people fight the good fight amid the tragedies and absurdities of our age

Perfect for fans of Michael Lewis and David Simon (Homicide, The Corner, The Wire, We Own This City)

Real life is different from what gets depicted on procedural crime dramas.

Equipped with a journalist’s eye, a paramedic’s experience and a sardonic wit, Bruce Goldfarb spent ten years with Maryland’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, where every sudden or unattended death in the state is scrutinized.

Touching on numerous scandals, including Derek Chauvin's trial for the murder of George Floyd and the tragic killing in police custody of Freddie Gray, Goldfarb pulls back the curtain on a pioneer institution in crisis.

Medical examiners and the investigators and technicians who support them play vital roles in the justice and public health systems of every American community. During Goldfarb’s time with the Maryland OCME, opioid-related deaths contributed to a significant increase in their workload. Faced with a chronic shortage of qualified experts and inadequate funding, their important and fascinating work has become more challenging than most people could ever imagine.

The public gets a skewed view of the relationship between police and medical examiners from procedural crime dramas, Bruce Goldfarb writes of his work inside one of America's most storied forensic centers. We aren’t on the same team . . . We aren’t on any team. The medical examiner’s sole duty is to the deceased person. We speak for the dead.


Praise for Bruce Goldfarb's 18 Tiny Deaths

"An engrossing and accessible chronicle of . . . the early years of scientific detection." — The Wall Street Journal

"Devotees of TV's CSI will have their minds blown." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Gripping . . . a brilliant insider's view." -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Go behind the scenes inside the nation's preeminent Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, where good people fight the...

Advance Praise

Praise for Bruce Goldfarb's 18 Tiny Deaths

"An engrossing and accessible chronicle of . . . the early years of scientific detection."
--The Wall Street Journal

"Devotees of TV's CSI will have their minds blown."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Praise for Bruce Goldfarb's 18 Tiny Deaths

"An engrossing and accessible chronicle of . . . the early years of scientific detection."
--The Wall Street Journal

"Devotees of TV's CSI will have their...

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ISBN 9781586423582
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Average rating from 43 members

Featured Reviews

Vividly told, such an interesting and easily readable story! Incredible! Great writing. I sped through this book because it was so interesting !! Thank you NetGalley!

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Bruce is the executive assistant to the Official Chief Medical Examiner for Maryland, US. It was fascinating to get an inside view of what goes on and to hear the history of how the forensic investigation and pathology departments have developed over time.
This helped dispel a lot of myths that have been sown by TV drama shows but was still interesting and eye opening, Bruce told the story of the OCME in a way that was understandable and informative without being boring.
I was particularly struck by the crisis that the OCME and others like it is going through especially after the Covid 19 pandemic.

An education and insightful look at one of our most vital public services.

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This was wonderfully informative and compelling. The insider look into forensics and pathology was so intriguing. If you are interested on forensics get this book now!

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Thank you for the advanced copy.

Really enjoyed this, finished it in one sitting. Very well written, well put together. Really helped clear up what you see in 99% of the TV shows.

Highly recommended

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Exquisitely readable and surprisingly relatable, OCME Life in America's Top Forensic Medical Center is a book I read in a single sitting. Despite needing sleep, I was unable to put this book down.

Author Bruce Goldfarb brings readers along with him for a detailed look at what life is really like in the Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Think this book would be too macabre to read? You would be massively wrong. OCME does NOT rely on the glorification of blood and guts to sell books. It is so interesting that it simply doesn't need to.

Full of eye-opening facts and fascinating details, OCME will open the eyes of its readers to the ridiculousness of red tape in any and every bureaucracy; even the bureaucracy of death itself.

Although this might not have been the author’s goal, he has nevertheless succeeded in bringing to light the horrific statistics surrounding many of the most concerning ways in which people have died over the past decade. Granted, the statistics used in this book only represent the state of Maryland, however, these are the same issues faced by most other states and cities in North America. For example, the author highlights the alarming number of people who have died due to the Opiod Epidemic.

This book will open people's eyes to the importance of having skilled and highly trained medical examiners. The result of this will hopefully be that both taxpayers and politicians will allocate more money in their budgets to the OCME in their respective jurisdictions.

Some of the most shocking, and frankly disturbing, information contained within the pages of this book are the following facts:

[ ] "About half of the US population is under the jurisdiction of coroners and lacks access to qualified forensic pathologists..."

[ ] "In states including Wisconsin, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, New York, Idaho, Georgia, Colorado, and Nevada, elected coroners aren’t required to have ANY medical or legal training before they can certify the cause and manner of death."

[ ] In Missouri, to serve as a coroner, the requirements are minimal. You only have to be 21 or older, and have to get more votes than anyone else. There is absolutely NO MEDICAL KNOWLEDGE NECESSARY. That is ridiculous. "If a person is elected coroner, they can crack open a beer and start signing death certificates."

I rate OCME as 5 out of 5 Stars
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ and I recommend this book not only to fans of True Crime, but also to everyone who wants to be more informed about Public Health, Politics, and/or general nonfiction enthusiasts.

Reading this book and spreading the word about it could be the difference between a murderer being caught or going free. It just might be the reason a killer is caught and the lives of future potential victims are saved.

*** Thank you to #NetGalley and #Edelweiss for providing me with a free advance review copy of this book. ***

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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.
I really liked Bruce Goldfarb's previous book, "18 Tiny Deaths". I figured this book won't disappoint and it sure didn't. The book gives a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the OCME. The history of the institution shows a top of the line office but as with everything to do with budget cuts and bad management, this much needed institution is failing.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in forensics.

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I really enjoyed the writers backstory and how they ended up working different jobs through their career. A really good example of a lifelong learning career!
Interesting premise and factual as well as engaging. Does have some slower moments too.

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"OCME" is the inside story of the Office of Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore, Maryland. The book describes both the history of OCME (and its usage in context of greater social issues) and how public investigations of death are handled in this country.

What's good: The book is both smart and sensitive. This is not a book for those looking for horror thrills. It's clear the author holds to heart the responsibility of the OCME staff to those who are in their care. The book is genuinely interesting--I appreciated the level of detail throughout, from the author's efforts to find the original notes on the JFK examination to how holidays were handled to evolving relationships with members of the media.

What's interesting: The book points out repeatedly the challenges of staffing and supplying the OCME in a world of increased demand, limited public resources, and limited output of qualified staff. In many ways, this book is an argument for a public intervention to ensure more individuals can be hired in these jobs and that OCME, and similar institutions, are running properly.

What's iffier: In some situations, I wanted more. I would've liked more of the stories of discoveries made within the OCME walls, but to be fair, that would shift the focus of the book away from the workers and OCME's operations and more towards the individuals who were served by OCME.

With gratitude to the publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

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A very interesting read for someone like me, a practising CSI in the UK. I found the first chapter about the history of OCME quite boring but from the next chapter, the book was unstoppable. It gave me an insight into the differences between the USA and the UK judicial system. Highly recommended for readers interested in that field.

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I am a mystery/true crime fanatic. It is the genre of book that I am reading most often. This book opens up behind the scenes at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore. Their office investigates every unattended or sudden death in Maryland. It is told from the point of view of their "PR" person, Bruce Goldfarb. He gives a brief history of the office and then talks about his experiences working in the OMCE. He discusses the death of Freddie Gray and other cases that caused numerous phone calls from journalists and sleuths.
Overall, I enjoyed the book. When you read about the increasing overdoses that begin to plague their offices it reminds you that it is the same everywhere in America. Opioid ODs have become more common across the country. He discusses how their offices started to fall behind when the budget shrank but deaths in the state rose. A strong book for those who like to know what happens behind the curtain without a specific case being discussed throughout the entire book. Nice snippets to read in short chunks. I enjoyed this book.

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OCME by Bruce Goldfarb allows the reader an inside view of what occurs inside the office of Maryland’s Office of Chief Medical Examiner. This book provided an extensive view of what a medical examiner does and how it becomes involved in investigations and autopsies. There were so many interesting situations and facts presented; including the large number of deaths that are due to drug use. Some high profile cases are showcased in this book such as, the Freddie Gray case. It was interesting to me to discover that this office was affected by inadequate funding and shortages similar to many other public service positions. With the vital need for this office, I was surprised to discover how it was significantly affected. Due to his time as a journalist and paramedic, Bruce Goldfarb knocked this book out of the park with his writing style and extensive background knowledge. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in true crime. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the advance review copy in exchange for my honest review.

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Wonderfully written! An informative look into a very unknown and profoundly important field of work. Very through and relatable. Having a strong science background I have always been fascinated about what happens to bodies post- Mortem. The scientific process behind it is amazing. The care and professionalism shown by the writer was uncanny and he garnered so much respect for the dead and their privacy and autonomy. I would highly recommend this book and hope it garners more interest in the forensic pathology field!

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Thanks to Steerforth and Netgalley for providing this nonfiction ARC about the Maryland Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Baltimore. I enjoyed learning the backstory of the organization (which is currently in the news for various negative reasons). Overall, the book ended up being quite sad as it tells the story of a once stellar and proud organization that was entirely decimated by a combination of the opioid crisis, government cost-cutting and short-sightedness, and finally poor leadership.

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Fascinating and interesting. I loved this book and the look into the world of forensic psychology.
A very readable and not at all sensational book.
The history, the cases and the hierarchical layout of the Maryland ocme.
Any one with an interest in true crime or medical centres will be gripped by this book.

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This was a great book explaining the inner workings of the OCME. I thoroughly enjoyed this. Thank you!

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This is a fascinating look inside the state of Maryland's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), the gold standard for medical examiners and forensic investigations. Forget CSI or Law and Order, this is the real deal.

Bruce Goldfarb, the author, is a journalist and the executive assistant to the Chief Medical Examiner. He fields phone calls, does PR, gives tours and is basically the go-to guy for all questions related to OCME. He gives an insight into the background of just how busy ME offices are and what it takes to be an accredited institution. I had no idea that most facilities for forensic investigations are run by elected officials with no specific training, just who can cajole the most votes out of constituents. Doesn't bode well for faith in the justice system.

Excellent book if you are a fan of crime shows to see how things actually work in the profession. The book is very well written.

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A good, informational book about a topic not often discussed.
Great for those looking for something a bit different on this topic.

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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
I love any books that involve autopsies and medical examiners. They are absolutely fascinating and this one did not disappoint. Great read.

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This book clearly explains what it's like to work in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore Maryland, written by a journalist who worked there. He explains the history of that Office, a little bit about the city/surroundings of Baltimore, the layout of the building, the job descriptions/occupations within, the hustle/bustle....& other facets of life & work there. He shines a light on various aspects of Forensic Medicine, & not just in Maryland.... Very interesting non-fiction!
I received a complimentary e-ARC from publisher Steelforth Press via NetGalley in return for reading it & posting my own fair/honest review.

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OCME is an intriguing look into life behind the scenes at the Baltimore OCME, and is one I could not put down! The writing itself is splendid - it has a great flow to it, with touches of humour that make what could be a heavy read, a light, easy read. It's incredibly informative and I learnt a lot from this book, that I haven't learnt in any of the forensics related books I've read to date. What makes this book different, is that it isn't written from the point of view of a medical examiner; the focus is on the day to day running of the OCME and all the politics that go on behind the scene. Bruce Goldferb has done an incredible job with this book, it is a must read for anyone with an interest in forensics..

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This was a fascinating look into the chief medical examiners office in Maryland. The author used some high profile, often problematic case studies to show the complexity of the work carried out here and allow the reader an inside look at what goes on after death in these cases. I really enjoyed this one!

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journalist, forensics, forensic-pathology, opioid-crisis, madical-examiner, death-investigation, forensic-science, true-crime, real-horror, nonfiction*****

I was interested in the history of medical examiners and coroners in the beginning chapters, but it was the work of the pathologists, medical examiners, and the rise in the opioid epidemic and the way it has debilitated our systems. I had worked ER, acute care, long term care, trauma rehab, and as an RN in a county jail, so I am not without understanding of the problems (especially BUDGET CUTS). Milwaukee isn't Baltimore, but our ME reached the point of no return with an insane caseload and just walked away.
This book was very well written, especially for those of us who are close to the line
I requested and received a free e-book copy from Steerforth Press via NetGalley. Thank you!

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OCME: Life in America’s Top Forensic Medical Center was an entertaining and quick read. OCME gives an insider look into the everyday lives of medical examiners and investigators at one of the busiest offices in the nation. Goldfarb expertly weaves in current ripped from the headlines cases without it seeming forced; he highlights issues facing his profession and really illustrates for the reader what a job in forensics truly looks like. After reading this book, I cannot wait to read Goldfarb’s previous “18 Tiny Deaths.”

Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher, and author Bruce Goldfarb for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

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OCME is a fascinating book for those like me with a morbid curiosity. I had heard of OCME in other reads and podcasts but did not realize the magnitude that this one building holds. I appreciated the level of details and explanations that were thoughtful and not gruesome. As that can easily happen with discussion of dead bodies and levels of decomposition. Great job, Bruce!

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A very informative read. Forensics really fascinates me. I found there was a bit of an overload of information, but other than that overall quite good. I’m Canadian but, it was nice to see how it came about to have a forensic building dedicated to finding out what happened to people after they have died.
Thank you for letting me read this book in exchange for my honest review.

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this was really quite fascinating! i am a sucker for anything medical, especially in the forensic field. as a non American this was quite an eye opener into american forensics!

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Thanks first must got to Netgalley, the publisher and Bruce Goldfarb for the ARC of ‘OCME’.

An interesting read, with detail and insight from the early days through to more modern times. Fascinating story and definitely a read to recommend for anyone who enjoys forensic non fiction.

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Go behind the scenes inside the nation's preeminent Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, where good people fight the good fight amid the tragedies and absurdities of our age

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Thank you for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book. An incredibly informative and interesting read

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'OCME - Life in America's Top Forensic Medical Center' by Bruce Goldfarb is a riveting and eye-opening exploration of the inner workings of Maryland's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Goldfarb, armed with his journalist's eye, paramedic's experience, and sardonic wit, takes readers on an unforgettable journey behind the scenes of one of the nation's most vital institutions.

In this gripping account, Goldfarb provides an insider's view of the OCME, where every sudden or unattended death in the state is meticulously examined. He sheds light on numerous high-profile cases, including the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd and the tragic death of Freddie Gray in police custody. Through his narrative, Goldfarb unveils the challenges, tragedies, and absurdities that the OCME staff faces in their pursuit of justice and public health.

What sets this book apart is its unflinching portrayal of the medical examiners and the dedicated professionals who support them. Goldfarb paints a vivid picture of the tireless work they do, often in the face of overwhelming caseloads, chronic shortages of experts, and inadequate funding. The book serves as a powerful reminder of the vital role these individuals play in our justice system and the health of our communities.

Goldfarb's writing is both informative and engaging, drawing readers into the world of forensic medicine with a level of detail and insight that is both impressive and accessible. He challenges the skewed perspective often presented in procedural crime dramas, emphasising that medical examiners are not aligned with the police but are solely committed to speaking for the deceased.

'OCME - Life in America's Top Forensic Medical Center' is an eye-opening and brilliantly written book that provides an essential glimpse into the challenges and triumphs of those who work tirelessly to uncover the truth behind unexplained deaths. Bruce Goldfarb's ability to capture the complexities and nuances of this critical profession is truly commendable.

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OMCE is a great book with vivid descriptions of life as an M.E. This will be interesting to anyone who works in criminal investigations, forensics or those who like watching criminal drama series. This book was read as an ARC. .

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OCME (Office of the Chief Medical Examiner) in Maryland is one of the most respected facilities. They have a state of the art technology system, custom autopsy rooms, filtration system, and the ability to convert their parking garage into an emergency storage facility. I found this book quite interesting. I had no idea what went on behind the scenes. It's not a book about the process of autopsies, but it's more of the day to day operations. You find out that the atmosphere is very political, not only with the government itself but also with the media and within its own walls. A few interesting cases were discussed to show the effects on family and the political side. Due to a new CME and the result of lacking experienced examiners, the image of the OCME decreased greatly with over 250 backlogged decedents. The facility is slowly working its way back to the top now, but it will take a long time to get back to where they were. I would have given it 5 stars, but it had the longest prologue I've ever seen.

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"OCME: Life in America's Top Forensic Medical Center" by Bruce Goldfarb provides a riveting and eye-opening look into the inner workings of one of America's most renowned forensic medical centers. Goldfarb's narrative prowess, coupled with his extensive knowledge of the subject matter, makes for a compelling and enlightening read.

The author's ability to balance meticulous attention to detail with a captivating storytelling style is commendable. He skillfully navigates the complex world of forensic medicine, offering readers a behind-the-scenes view of the investigations and cases that unfold within the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Goldfarb's portrayal of the dedicated professionals working in the OCME is both respectful and humanizing. He brings to life the individuals who tirelessly work to uncover the truth behind mysterious and often tragic deaths. Their expertise, compassion, and commitment to justice shine through the pages, leaving a lasting impression on the reader.

The book's structure is well-organized, allowing readers to follow the progression of cases and gain a comprehensive understanding of the OCME's operations. Goldfarb strikes a balance between technical explanations and engaging anecdotes, ensuring that the material remains accessible to both experts in the field and curious lay readers.

Furthermore, "OCME" serves as a testament to the vital role that forensic medicine plays in our society. Goldfarb sheds light on the impact of the OCME's work not only in terms of solving crimes but also in providing closure and justice for families and communities affected by loss.

In conclusion, "OCME: Life in America's Top Forensic Medical Center" is a masterfully written and profoundly insightful book that offers a rare glimpse into the world of forensic medicine. Bruce Goldfarb's expertise and storytelling prowess combine to create a compelling narrative that will leave readers both fascinated and deeply appreciative of the crucial work performed by those in the field of forensic medicine. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the intersection of science, justice, and human compassion.

I was provided an advanced copy of this book by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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