Have You Heard About... The Good Nurse
… the real-life serial killer who spent over 15 years of his life killing patients at local hospitals? The Good Nurse by Charles Graeber follows the story of Charlie Cullen, who worked as a nurse at multiple hospitals across Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He had a good work ethic, was well-liked amongst his colleagues, and did his job well, if you overlook the fact that he has been implicated in the deaths of over 300 patients. Charlie liked to poison IV bags in the supply closets and watch as the IVs were given to random patients across the hospital. Administrators at many of these hospitals suspected him, but none ever went so far as to prosecute him. Charlie was simply relieved of his duties and eventually found work elsewhere.
The second half of the book details the investigation into a mysterious patient death which was eventually linked back to Charlie. But even more frightening than the murders were the lengths that the hospitals went to in order to avoid a potentially disastrous scandal. The detectives enlisted the help of a former coworker and friend of Charlie’s to convict him, and her taped conversations are included at the end of the book.
The story itself is frightening, but the author’s journalistic writing kept it believable without straying into melodrama. Charlie is not portrayed as a victim, nor is he portrayed as a soulless monster. He is a complicated criminal with motivations that go far beyond having a rough childhood or becoming too attached to his mother.
But the author doesn’t try to give an explanation for Charlie’s behavior. He presents the facts and lets the reader draw their own conclusions. And in this case, very little embellishment is needed. The book concludes with Charlie and his friend eating at a restaurant as his friend tries to provoke him into confessing. The dialogue, which is taken word-for-word from the official transcript, is one of the most chilling parts of the story.
The murders are not particularly bloody but this still makes for an extremely disturbing read. Definitely suggested for fans of true crime, and its lack of gore might entice other readers as well, but it’s a book that will likely keep you awake at night.
Reviewed by Katie (staff)