Review: The Good Nurse by Charles Graeber

Title: The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness and Murder

Author: Charles Graeber

Published: Atlantic Books January 2014

Read an excerpt

Status: Read from January 05 to 07, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy Allen & Unwin}

My Thoughts:

The Good Nurse is a chilling true crime story revealing the murderous sixteen year career of registered nurse Charlie Cullen, arrested in 2003 and eventually confessing to the murder of forty patients but suspected as being responsible for as many as three hundred.

Unlike ‘Angel of Mercy’ killers, whose twisted thinking means they think they are helping ease suffering, Cullen’s motivation for the murders were frightening in their lack of discrimination. He chose patients to murder based on random criteria irrespective of their ability to recover, injected drugs into anonymous IV bag’s, and made deliberate medication errors, unmindful of his victim’s lives.

Psychiatrists eventually ascribed Cullen’s actions to his need to compensate for his feelings of powerlessness. Graeber shares enough of Cullen’s personal history to give an idea of where his pathology was rooted though I got the impression there were deliberate gaps in his childhood experiences. As Graeber admits Cullen wasn’t very forthcoming in speaking about his life, this is understandable. Cullen’s ex-wife’s cooperation with the author revealed little other than his state of mind during the early years of his murderous sixteen year career.

The second half of the book concentrates on the police inquiry into Cullen. The research seems thorough in regards to the tracing of Cullen’s work history, the murders he was and may have been responsible for and the details of the police investigation. The difficulties in proving Cullen’s culpability are clearly explained, including the negligence of the hospitals who employed Cullen.

The book is also an indictment of a health care system motivated by profit, where lawyers make decisions not based on best practice but with corporate indifference. I was sickened no less by the actions of those that permitted Cullen to continue his spree, than I was by Cullen himself. Though unfortunately none of the various hospital administrators could be held criminally liable for their complicity in Cullen’s crimes, I was pleased that some of the families were at least able to enact civil penalties.

A disturbing yet fascinating read, The Good Nurse is the story of a frightening sociopath, a negligent and corrupt health care system and the tireless work of those who attempted to bring them both to account for their crimes.

Available to purchase from

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sheila (Book Journey)
    Jan 19, 2014 @ 02:43:06

    This sounds pretty good!



  2. Tea Time with Marce
    Jan 20, 2014 @ 10:06:33

    I want to read this one but working for a hospital in HR which investigates at times also makes it a very scary thought.



  3. stacybuckeye
    Jan 22, 2014 @ 01:02:24

    Everyone who reads this seems to get angry but they also recommend it. I don’t read a lot of true crime but I may have to make an exception for this one.



  4. Trackback: Stuff on Sundays: Eclectic Reader Recommendations | book'd out

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