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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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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A fascinating insight into Maryland's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

I'll admit I'm an avid fan of CSI and other shows like it but this has changed my view of them as they don't work like they show on the TV and in movies.

It could be a tad repetitive at times, but the author kept me engaged and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

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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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If you are at all interested in Forensic Pathology, I will definitely recommend this book.

It was a fascinating read. I especially loved reading about the history of the OCME, the “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death” and the author´s day to day work.
The only issue I had with the book was, that I wanted more! More pages and a more detailed approach. But all in all it was an enjoyable read.

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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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