Review: The Charming Predator

The Charming PredatorThe Charming Predator
Author: Lee Mackenzie
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Genre/Themes: Memoir, Non-fiction, True Crime
Release Date: April 18, 2017
Format: Ebook

 

Synopsis

She was a capable and confident young woman, studying broadcast journalism and honing her skills of observation and objectivity. She was also a little unworldly, the product of a small, rural Western Canadian community where doors were never locked and life was simple and direct. On a backpacking trip in the UK, she met the man who would become her husband. A man who everyone agreed was one of the most intelligent, charming people they had ever met. Easy to like, easy to believe. Easy to love. A man without mercy who shattered her emotionally, psychologically and financially.
Decades later, Kenner Jones is at large today, having committed crimes around the world under a series of fake names and personas. He has been described by a seasoned US immigration officer as “the best conman I have ever encountered.”
No one got closer to Kenner Jones than Lee Mackenzie. In The Charming Predator, he is unmasked for the first time.

Review

Unfortunately, this was a book I was unable to finish. I really hated giving up on this book, but it was really hard for me to connect with the main character, even though we’re both from the same place.

The premise of this novel was intriguing, and I wanted to know how a smart woman could have been duped by such a terrible conman. The problem was that after the prologue and the first chapter, I just found myself not connecting to either the main character, Lee, or her writing style. For a book such as this, the writing needs to be really engaging, and I felt that it was lacking. I got about halfway through the second chapter before I stopped. I mean, it was really obvious that Kenner was a liar and there were just so many warning signs that went ignored.

There isn’t a lot else for me to say about this novel. I just didn’t feel like reading it any longer.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.

The Devil in the White City – Erik Larson Review

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that changed America Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair’s construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor.

Burnham’s challenge was immense. In a short period of time, he was forced to overcome the death of his partner and numerous other obstacles to construct the famous “White City” around which the fair was built. His efforts to complete the project, and the fair’s incredible success, are skillfully related along with entertaining appearances by such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody, Susan B. Anthony, and Thomas Edison.

The activities of the sinister Dr. Holmes, who is believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the fair, are equally remarkable. He devised and erected the World’s Fair Hotel, complete with crematorium and gas chamber, near the fairgrounds and used the event as well as his own charismatic personality to lure victims.

I really disliked this book. It was too wordy and descriptive and I went into it thinking it was going to be an interesting true crime novel, and it turned out to be a historical novel. I think the biggest problem was that there were two narratives, one about the building of the White City, and one about the murderer, Dr. Holmes. I obviously found the Dr. Holmes chapters far more interesting, but the majority of this novel wasn’t about him.

I only enjoy narrative non-fiction when it’s true crime, and this was pretty disappointing. While I appreciate the amount and the depth of Erik Larson’s research, I think a lot of the narration was based around speculation. There’s no way to know how the characters were feeling, but Larson makes assumptions about their innermost thoughts and feelings.

He’s also entirely too descriptive. He bogs down the pacing of the novel with these useless facts and it makes slogging through the book a chore. I had to give up about halfway through. While I know this book has a lot of fans, I only recommend it to those who love history and want to completely immerse themselves in the minutiae of the building of the White City and what happened after. Otherwise, this book won’t hold your interest.

The Good Nurse – Charles Graeber Review

The Good Nurse: The True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder Charles Cullen, RN, was one of the most accomplished serial killers in recent history. For 16 years, working in multiple hospitals, he had a hand in the deaths of as many as 300 patients. Though colleagues knew or had reason to know what was going on, no one stopped him. The Good Nurse does more than tell the horrifying tale of Cullens deadly career; it paints an incredibly vivid portrait of madness and offers an excoriating look inside Americas broken medical system. Cullen is but one of the story’s many riveting characters. Others include a down-and-out detective and an Erin Brockovich-type employee who wrestles with herself and the truth about her friend and colleague, eventually joining forces to end Cullen’s killing spree. Impossible to put down, The Good Nurse ensures that listeners will never enter a hospital in the same way again.

I’ve been on this true crime binge recently. I’m not sure what draws me to the genre other than a morbid fascination to see what makes murderers tick. I listen to the murder cases and try to put the pieces together myself. It’s like a really macabre jigsaw puzzle.

The Good Nurse is a truly terrifying account of a nurse that may have killed up to 300 patients. It’s incredibly well researched and Charlie Cullen actually granted the author interviews, so I think it’s quite accurate as well.

I think the most terrifying part about this novel is that the medical system completely failed when it came to patient care. Cullen was able to continually find work as a nurse even after being fired from previous positions for things like stalking and suspicious patient deaths. In fact, the hospitals that fired him were solely worried about their reputation and how the public would perceive them. They were worried about lawsuits that may arise and didn’t contact the authorities about any of their suspicions. One hospital even gave him neutral references as long as he willingly quit the job.

Hospitals are supposed to be a sanctuary for the ill and the dying. While the idea of a killer nurse makes me extremely wary, the part that truly scares me is that the hospitals might be failing to disclose the identity of any and all killer nurses. However, when it comes to a corporation’s greed and lack of morality, I’m not surprised.

I strongly recommend everyone read this novel or listen to it on audiobook. It’s very well written, but it’ll definitely make you nervous about stepping foot into a hospital.