by Charles Graeber
Narrative Non-Fiction/True Crime
9 hospitals. 16 years. Dozens or possibly hundreds of deaths. Is Charlie Cullen the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history? In 2006, former nurse Charlie Cullen was convicted of murdering 22 patients at hospitals in New Jersey. He’s confessed to at least 40 murders. But, Charlie himself does not even remember how many patients he’s killed, although some experts estimate the number of victims could be up to 400.
The Good Nurse is a narrative non-fiction book about Charlie’s life that reads like a suspense book. As we read, we can see what Charlie is doing, but how will he finally be stopped?
Charles Graeber is the first person to be granted interviews with Charlie. He pieces together Charlie’s life: his multiple suicide attempts, his attention-seeking behaviors, his disturbing relationships with women, and his work as a nurse. The dispassionate, random way Charlie kills his victims is scary enough. We never quite fully understand why Charlie kills the patients he does. In fact, Charlie often doesn’t know which patient will end up with a poisoned IV bag. What is even more frightening is the way Charlie gets away with murdering patients, many of whom would likely have survived, for sixteen years. Many of the hospitals Charlie worked at suspected what he was doing, but simply asked him to leave to avoid controversy, allowing him to continue to take lives.
The Good Nurse is a fast-paced read and a fascinating look into the mind of serial killer that reads like fiction. If you are the type of person who watches the news and wonders what drives people to commit crimes and other horrifying acts, you might like The Good Nurse, which is sure to catch the eye true crime fans and mystery/thriller fans alike.
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- For more investigative and narrative non-fiction about a hospital faced with difficult decisions after Hurricane Katrina, check out Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
- For another story about a recent serial killer still at large in New York, try Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker
- For another disturbing tale about a serial killer that seems like it should be fiction, try Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson