‘I’m the person they call when people die’

Below is an excerpt from forensic pathologist Dr. Judy Melinek's 2014 memoir "Working Stiff," co-authored by her husband, writer T.J. Mitchell. Go inside the lives of America's busiest coroners in Los Angeles County on the next episode of "This is Life with Lisa Ling," Wednesday November 11 at 9 p.m. (The names of victims were changed in the book.) (CNN)"Remember: This can only end badly." That's what my husband says anytime I start a story. He's right. So. This carpenter is sitting on a sidewalk in Midtown Manhattan with his buddies, half a dozen subcontractors in hard hats sipping their coffees before the morning shift gets started. The remains of a hurricane blew over the city the day before, halting construction, but now it's back to business on the office tower they've been building for eight months. As the sun comes up and the traffic din grows, a new noise punctures the hum of taxis and buses: a metallic creak, not immediately menacing. The creak turns into a groan, and somebody yells. Read More Judy Melinek The workers can't hear too well over the diesel noise and gusting wind, but they can tell the voice is directed at them. The groan sharpens to a screech. The men look up -- then jump to their feet and sprint off, their coffee flying everywhere. The carpenter chooses the wrong direction. With an earthshaking crash, the derrick of a 383-foot-tall construction crane slams down on James Friarson's head. I arrived at this gruesome scene two hours later with a team of MLIs, medicolegal investigators from the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner. The crane had fallen directly across a busy intersection at rush hour and the police had shut it down, snarling traffic in all directions. The MLI driving the morgue van cursed like a sailor as he inched us the last few blocks to the cordon line. Medicolegal investigators are the medical examiner's first responders, going to the site of an untimely death, examining and documenting Continue Reading

Ratings and Review: With the 2018 Tiguan, Volkswagen swaps sporty performance for spacious packaging

Full Car Details More Reviews Americans have been SUV-crazy for more than 25 years. That’s right. Ford irrevocably altered the automotive universe with the original 1991 Explorer, and then five years later both Subaru and Toyota created the modern crossover with the 1996 Outback and RAV4. Volkswagen apparently missed this trend. Sure, there was the Touareg. Then the Tiguan. But both failed to hit the sweet spot of practicality and affordability, and were virtually ignored by Americans. For 2018, that changes. With the redesigned 2018 Tiguan and the new 2018 Atlas, Volkswagen flexes its substantial muscles and delivers two powerful punches to the compact and family-size SUV segments. With few exceptions, each of VW’s new sport-utes gets the American SUV formula exactly right. Bigger inside and out, and pairing a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with front-wheel or all-wheel drive, the new 2018 Tiguan easily ranks as one of the best compact crossover SUVs you can buy. Design: 7.3 rating My test vehicle arrived in SE trim with 4Motion all-wheel drive, equipped with 17-inch aluminum wheels, and dipped in Platinum Gray paint. It was rather drab, though the paint certainly shimmered in bright sunlight. Fortunately, Volkswagen offers a range of hues for the Tiguan, as well as several appealing 18-inch and 19-inch wheel designs for the SEL and SEL Premium trim levels. If you’re brave, you can even get orange leather. Penned with restraint, there is nothing exciting about the new Tiguan’s looks. At the same time, nobody will point at it and laugh. Volkswagen’s conservative design ethos could be judged boring, but at the same time the company’s products age with undeniable grace. Same goes for the interior. Tones and textures are complimentary, and my Tiguan SE’s Storm Gray V-Tex leatherette seat upholstery contrasted Continue Reading

The Spousal Report: Volvo builds the pornographically fast 2017 V60 wagon and gives it an appropriately salacious name

Full Car Details More Reviews Polestar is to Volvo what AMG is to Mercedes-Benz. Naturally, then, the V60 Polestar is a performance-tuned version of Volvo’s compact station wagon, and wow. Just, wow. To transform this otherwise innocuous automobile into a legitimate sports car, Polestar massages Volvo’s turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine so that it produces 362 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 347 lb.-ft. of torque between 3,100 rpm and 5,100 rpm. The result is acceleration to 60 mph in a claimed 4.5 seconds. Upgrades also include a fortified 8-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive, specially-tuned steering, and a reworked suspension including 80-percent stiffer springs than the sporty V60 T6 R-Design as well as a carbon fiber-reinforced front strut brace. Ventilated, slotted, floating Brembo front brake discs are clamped by 6-piston Brembo calipers, and larger ventilated rear discs are installed. They rapidly and absolutely coat the almost obscene 20-inch Polestar wheels in brake dust, and 245/35 Michelin Pilot Super Sport summer performance tires ensure maximum grip. Subtle styling changes stealthily signal the V60 Polestar’s performance potential to observers, while the cabin receives performance seats with significant side bolsters, a necessity given how the wagon tackles corners. Everything comes standard, except for metallic paint and a raft of dealer-installed accessories. To see if this tweaked wagon hauls a family as well as it hauls ass, Daily News Autos editor Christian Wardlaw and his wife, contributing writer Liz Kim, spent a week driving a Bright Silver V60 Polestar wearing a price tag of $62,595 (including the destination charge of $885). For the record, an equivalently optioned V60 T6 R-Design runs $53,015, making the Polestar treatment a $9,580 upgrade. This is their story… How it Looks She Says: Polestar. Continue Reading

Ratings and Review: Purpose-built for adventuring, the 2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk goes where few crossovers can

Full Car Details More Reviews Right off the bat, let’s get a couple of things straight about the 2017 Jeep Compass. First, Jeep sold two completely different Compass models for the 2017 model year. During the first part of the year, it offered the old Compass to consumers, a shoddy little excuse of a vehicle that you wouldn’t foist upon your worst enemy. This is definitely not the 2017 Compass you want. Under no circumstances should you allow a dealership talk you into one that might be sitting on the lot collecting dust. Not even if it’s free. During the latter part of the year, Jeep offered the new, redesigned Compass, which is about a gazillion times better. You can easily tell the difference between the new one and the old one. The new one’s interior does not appear to be made of the same plastic that you’d find on the trinkets lining the pathetic, fluorescent-illuminated toy aisle of a Rite-Aid while a muzak version of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” is making you seriously contemplate suicide. Second, while the redesigned 2017 Compass is massively improved over the original, it comes up short in a number of ways when compared to its direct competition. Given that Jeep had a full decade to come up with a successor to the original Compass, you might think the company would have done a better job of building a Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester, and Toyota RAV4 killer. Instead, Jeep built a Jeep. Which is as it should be. For this evaluation, I examined a Compass Trailhawk ($29,690) painted Laser Blue and equipped with the Popular Equipment Group, the Leather Interior Group, the Navigation Group, the Cold Weather Group, and the Trailer Tow Group. These extras brought the price to $32,865. Design: 7.7 rating People buy Jeeps because they are Jeeps, and Jeeps are cool. Even the Cherokee, Continue Reading

Ratings and Review: The 2017 Lincoln Continental isn’t the best full-size luxury sedan, but it might be the coolest

Full Car Details More Reviews It seems 2017 is the year of reinvention. Whether it’s small New Years resolutions like going to the gym more (or at all), or reimagining what we thought was possible in politics (ugh), the times are a-changin’ far and wide. Car companies seem to be chief among those seeking to reinvent themselves too, with everyone from Cadillac to Volvo staging a comeback… or at least attempting to. Jaguar is making SUVs for the first time, Hyundai has finally spun off Genesis into its own brand, and Alfa Romeo is back in the U.S. for the first time since the (first) Bush administration. Right in the middle of this finding-yourself foray is Lincoln, long the recipient of rebadged and leather-clad Fords with slightly chromier styling and a few added features, but as luxury customers’ tastes became more sophisticated (and more German), American metal fell by the wayside. But letting the Germans run rampant isn’t the American way, now is it? Hell no, it ain’t! And right on schedule, Lincoln’s thrown their best designers and engineers at every new product slated to come out between now and the next election (God help us). The first fruit of their labor isn’t an all-new idea or way of thinking, it’s a return to their roots with the resurrection of one of the most iconic names in American automobiles: Continental, so I borrowed a fully-loaded Black Label edition to find out if the transformation is complete, or if there’s still a long way to go. Design: 8.0 Rating When I asked around, opinions on the styling of the new Continental ranged from very lukewarm to hot, hot, hot. I fall firmly on the side of the latter, and while there are a few issues with this new Lincoln’s sheet metal, there’s quite a lot to fawn over, too. Throwing out seemingly all pretentions of Continue Reading

Review: 2015 Hyundai Genesis tests the power of substance, and the limitations of a brand

Full Car Details More Reviews My twin nephews are graduating from high school this year, and in long letters to each, filled with unsolicited guidance and advice, I offered this: “Brand names don’t really mean anything. A ‘brand’ is defined by a set of ephemeral values created by a bunch of marketing people whose job it is to figure out how best to separate you from as much of your money as is possible. Don’t fall for it.” FOLLOW DAILY NEWS AUTOS ON FACEBOOK. 'LIKE' US HERE. In writing this to two young men embarking upon their lives in Los Angeles, a city where spotting a McLaren on the freeway results in a shrug instead of a thrill (because, believe it or not, they’re relatively commonplace), my intent was to help them understand the difference between substance and image, and to spend their money wisely on the former instead of the latter. In fact, while writing it, I had the 2015 Hyundai Genesis sedan in mind. With few exceptions, the Genesis exudes substance. This is a genuine luxury automobile, expertly engineered, delightfully dynamic, and opulently outfitted. Despite my test car’s generic Santiago Silver paint job, it turned heads, and its terrific (if somewhat derivative) styling is one reason the car attracts attention. The other reason is the car’s relative rarity. READ MORE ABOUT THE 2015 GENESIS. In L.A., you can’t drive a block without seeing a BMW, a Lexus, or a Mercedes in some shade of white, silver, gray, or black. Roll down Pacific Coast Highway or Sunset Boulevard in a Hyundai Genesis 5.0 and heads swivel, because sightings of this car in this region are about as common as pro-NRA bumper stickers. My test car was loaded with all of the extras, resulting in a sticker price of nearly $56,000. Don’t clutch your chest in disbelief. In every respect, the Genesis is absolutely competitive with Continue Reading