After his December 2003 arrest, registered nurse Charlie Cullen was quickly dubbed "The Angel of Death" by the media. But Cullen was no mercy killer, nor was he a simple monster. He was a favorite son, husband, beloved father, best friend, and celebrated caregiver. Implicated in the deaths of as many as 300 patients, he was also perhaps the most prolific serial killer in American history.
Cullen's murderous career in the world's most trusted profession spanned 16 years and nine hospitals across New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
When, in March of 2006, Charles Cullen was marched from his final sentencing in an Allentown, Pennsylvania, courthouse into a waiting police van, it seemed certain that the chilling secrets of his life, career, and capture would disappear with him. Now, in a riveting piece of investigative journalism nearly 10 years in the making, journalist Charles Graeber presents the whole story for the first time. Based on hundreds of pages of previously unseen police records, interviews, wire-tap recordings and videotapes, as well as exclusive jailhouse conversations with Cullen himself and the confidential informant who helped bring him down, The Good Nurse weaves an urgent, terrifying tale of murder, friendship, and betrayal.
Graeber's portrait of Cullen depicts a surprisingly intelligent and complicated young man whose promising career was overwhelmed by his compulsion to kill, and whose shy demeanor masked a twisted interior life hidden even to his family and friends. Were it not for the hardboiled, unrelenting work of two former Newark homicide detectives racing to put together the pieces of Cullen's professional past, and a fellow nurse willing to put everything at risk, including her job and the safety of her children, there's no telling how many more lives could have been lost.
In the tradition of In Cold Blood, The Good Nurse does more than chronicle Cullen's deadly career and the breathless efforts to stop him; it paints an incredibly vivid portrait of madness and offers a penetrating look inside America's medical system. Harrowing and irresistibly paced, this book will make you look at medicine, hospitals, and the people who work in them, in an entirely different way.
©2013 Charles Graeber (P)2013 Hachette Audio
Short, Simple, No Spoilers
Read great reviews on this one, so settled in to hear details about purposeful selection and murder of patients. What I discovered much to my delight and horror was the opposite. Charles Graeber writes from the perspective of a floating, non-judgmental narrator taking you through the events. I (and probably most of us) wanted to believe there was a reason he killed so many people. Was it for mercy or prejudice or hatred or a childhood traumatic event. When the answer is no, the story becomes creepier.
My advice is not to read too much detail from the summary and especially other reviews giving you play-by-play analysis. There is no gore, the shock factor is a slow build. Listen and let the story unfold walking you through the hospital, a place of trust with administrators, nurses, and the mystery of medicine. Was this the perfect storm for a serial killer? You decide.
I have read or listened to dozens of true crime books written by authors who are considered to be the masters of the genre. And almost none of them can hold a candle to The Good Nurse for sheer entertainment value.
As an aging attorney who started out in the District Attorney's office nearly 40 years ago, I am usually irritated to some degree by the non-nuanced manner that the criminal justice system is treated in books, TV shows, movies, etc. But Graeber hits the nail right on the head in The Good Nurse. And he does it all without pandering to the perpetrator, the families of the victims, or the cops who eventually solve the case--a claim that in my opinion can be made by only one other true crime author (Vincent Bugliosi). If there is any justice in the world, The Good Nurse will become a classic like Helter Skelter.
And when I finished listening, I couldn't remember anything specific about the narration, which is exactly what I want--a narrator who delivers the goods and gets out of the way. Excellent job by Will Collyer.
Looking forward to more books by Charles Graeber.
College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.
If you were entranced by the style of Robert Graysmith's Zodiac or Bugliosi's Helter Skelter, you will similarly appreciate the hypnotic writing of Charles Graeber (yes, it means "gravedigger" in German) in The Good Nurse... It is easy enough to (falsely) assure yourself about most dangers in life, but what if your caregiver, outwardly diligent and trustworthy, were a cold-blooded killer, a psychopath murdering those whose bodies are made vulnerable to his supposedly healing hands? And these events were recent. Cullen was only caught in 2003. This book will do for the hospital bed what Psycho did for the shower...
This is a chilling account of how one nurse, Charlie Cullen, was able to get away with killing hundreds of patients while the medical system failed to do anything about it. If not for the bravery of some hospital staff who risked their jobs to get the information to authorities, this nurse would likely still be working the night shift today, and killing when the mood would strike.
Written in the style of In Cold Blood, the author lays out the details of Charlie Cullen's life. He was a very sad, lonely, and troubled person who had a horrific childhood. He attempted suicide many times, starting young in life. Eventually joining the Navy to escape his home life, he then went to nursing school. Upon graduating, it was easy to get jobs where he usually requested to work the night shifts. He started killing, not as any sympathetic reason for patient's who were suffering, but more to make himself feel better and relieve stress. As time went by, and it was so easy to inject IV bags with drugs such as insulin, or heart medication, he just kept doing it. At times he would simply inject several IV bags at one time, not knowing or caring which patient would be on the fatal end of his actions. He learned to "fit in" at the many different hospitals where he worked by being helpful and always available to take extra shifts.
Over approximately 16 years and nine different hospitals, deaths occurred during his shifts far above what was normal. Although he was suspected of causing the deaths, after a few attempts at investigating with failed results, he was either forced to quit, or just "let go" and usually given neutral references to get rid of him. It turns out, the hospitals did not want to lose their good standing (to say nothing of the lawsuits that would ensue), and so just passed the problem on to the next one. Each hospital in turn, did the very same thing.
The two detectives who eventually investigated and brought justice to the families who lost loved ones, should be rewarded, along with the one hospital employee who risked her job to do the right thing.
Very well written, this true story kept me listening for hours at a time. Although some of the details were difficult to hear, I think it is an important book, and everyone should be aware of what can happen in places we think of as safe-- where we all go for help and healing--hospitals!
I agree, as a RN there are many small errors not only made by the narrator, but the author as well. Don't let that stop you. This is based on a true story, scary as that seems. The narrator's voice wasn't the issue for me, and I'm glad I went through with the purchase. This story will shock you at "the system" the hospitals used to cover their selves. The author did a great job with the psychological issues the nurse is having....denial or pure arrogance?
Another book read in 2 days
Say something about yourself!
Enjoyed this story. Well written, and certainly well researched. Well narrated as well.Difficult to grasp how someone can go down this path.
Graeber's chilling account of Charles Cullen was propelled and made lively by Will Collyer's brisk and engaging narration.
The crimes of Charles Cullen were disturbing on their own, of course, but what made this book so frightening was the discussion of how the hospitals that employed Cullen simply kept passing him along. There was more than one occasion where Cullen was caught, almost in the act, of stealing dangerous medications suspected of being used to harm patients, and hospital administrators would allow him to quietly resign with neutral job references, just so there would be no mark of shame against the hospital.
This was some of the best voice work I have ever heard. Collyer adopts different voice affectations for the dialogue-- subtly, nothing too over the top-- that allow the listener to keep track of who is talking in fast exchanges.
British ex-pat living in NC. Have more personalities than Sybil which is reflected in my choice of books! Frustrated writer at heart.
I am pretty picky about what I fill my head with. I tend not to purchase books by impulse but I heard about this one on a podcast and I saw the excellent reviews. I actually listened to it twice before posting a review as I was sure that I was missing 'something'. Maybe it was because I was a Nurse Practitioner I was being hypercritical but I don't think so. I think that I found the pace really slow. I normally find myself lost in performances but this time I had to keep re- listening. Just not my 'cup of tea' I suppose!
Excellent performance with a plethora of voice inflection. Will definitely listen to more of this actor's performances in the future.
Yes I would.
Well written but personally felt far too 'two dimensional' for me. I could not get that wonderful feeling of being 'lost' in the story.
I like unabridged novels. When I first joined Audible, many were abridged. That has changed. Non-fiction, politics, bios are favorites
It reminded me of James Stewart's Blind Eye
How hard it is to report and catch this kind of deviant and the risks some health care people take to stop their colleagues' actions.
He is a good neutral reader
Cheaper by the dozen
Many reviewers apparently aren't familiar with Dr Swango. He killed many patients but not quite as many. He came across as crazy but was able to migrate even to different countries. The Africans figured him out sooner than the Americans.
Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
"The Good Nurse" recounts a true story about guilt–the obvious legal guilt of a psychopathic murderer and, less obvious, self-assessment guilt; i.e. the guilt of hospital attorneys, doctors, owners, and administrators. Legal guilt is defined by a “court of law” as a criminal law violation determined by judge or jury. Self-assessment guilt is the guilt of violating parental or social expectation (defined by Aphrodite Matsakis, Ph.D).
A fundamental truth in life is that death is a surety; the only difference is in when you die and by what means. It may be death at the hand of a murderer like Cullen, but more ominously by someone in a doctor’s coat, a nurse’s uniform, a manager’s tie, or lawyer’s suit. There may be deaths without guilt but all unnatural deaths are deeply burdened with guilt. Cullen is guilty of murder but how many white coats, white uniforms, and suits in this case are also guilty? Were the Cullen murders a game of “Truth or Consequences” or “Monopoly” with “Get-Out-of-Jail-Free” cards?
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