In 2003, cops in New Jersey arrested one of the most prolific serial killers of our time. Charlie Cullen was a nurse, and he’d murdered dozens-maybe hundreds-of patients in nine different hospitals over a sixteen year span before he was finally caught.
Usually, he’d spike their IV bags with insulin or or digoxin. As time went on and suspicion grew, he’d switch up his methods. He killed a priest, and a judge. He killed people he thought were suffering too much. He killed people whose family members annoyed him. A lot of the times, he didn’t know why he killed who he killed.
Eventually, whichever hospital he was at would start to suspect he had something to do with these mysterious deaths. They chose to fire him, or let him quit, rather than tell the police, too afraid to put their professional reputations on the line. Not even Cullen remembers how many more died as a result. And when the cops narrowed in on Charlie and visited his old hospitals, his paperwork would be missing and the investigations on the deaths were incomplete. Even the hospital that (reluctantly) called the police blocked their investigation every step of the way.
Charles Graeber is the only journalist who Cullen would talk to. Maybe if he knew what Graeber would say about him, Charlie would have kept his mouth shut. It’s not just that he was a bad guy-he was a serial killer and we expect them to be bad dudes. It’s that he was an asshole. Cullen was one of those guys who thought the world was against him, thought women he crushed on owed him attention, that everything that didn’t go his way was persecution. And he took that out on his defenseless patients. This is a guy who broke into a woman’s apartment after they’d gone out and she stopped calling, watched her and her daughter sleep and then told her what he’d done. He was surprised when she didn’t find that romantic. He made about twenty suicide attempts, none of them particularly serious, because he liked the attention.
I mostly enjoyed the book. It’s well-written and the sections where the police are investigating are particularly interesting. But listening to Charlie wax on and on about how the world did him wrong made me want to throw my book against the wall. Honestly I’d rather be treated by Annie Wilkes than listen to this lying old dirty birdie.