The Nurse: Inside Denmark’s Most Sensational Criminal Trial by Kristian Corfixen

The Nurse: Inside Denmark’s Most Sensational Criminal Trial
by Kristian Corfixen

Reading nonfiction true crime is one of my favorite guilty pleasures. I enjoy it with a professional historian’s interest: the analysis of evidence and its presentation in text, the exploration of the social and cultural impact on the communities in which these events occur, and the dissection of the institutions and the systems that enable or hide the crimes and the criminals. Corfixen’s The Nurse, about a young woman’s murder of four of her patients in Denmark and her conviction for these crimes, delivers on all three points. It is a well-researched book on the crime, the criminal, and the Danish healthcare, law enforcement, and judicial systems.

Corfixen interviewed the nurse herself, Christina Aistrup Hansen, her colleagues, detectives, victims’ families and friends, as well as one of the survivors. It presents a fleshed out, rounded account of the events. [If you’re interested in news of the case, you can read more here.]

The Nurse: Inside Denmark’s Most Sensational Criminal Trial begins well before the case and the trial itself. This first section of the book provides the reader with the necessary background knowledge to understand Hansen as well the hospital system in which she committed her crimes. (The book is published in English, presumably for Danish and non-Danish readers.) This part is told through the experiences of Hansen’s colleagues, one in particular. In subsequent sections, Corfixen takes us back in time to Hansen’s childhood and into her personal life, then into her professional life, through the period of her nursing education, and finally into the microcosmic society of the hospital. The reader is immersed in the community and culture of nurses and medical staff at the Nykøbing Falster Hospital. The book continues on to detail the crimes themselves and the investigation that was initiated against Hansen. The Nurse ends with the trial and Hansen’s incarceration. These parts of the book are especially intriguing as Corfixen is given rare access to Hansen herself. The reader is treated to a perspective often absent in true crime accounts.

Corfixen’s prose and the way in which they exhibit these diverse perspectives is a critical part of the book’s success. The writing is smooth, but more significantly, it is seamless as it moves from one point of view to another. The reader gets a privileged view of the events from Hansen as well as from her former colleagues, from the family members of her victims. These are often conflicting — Hansen maintains her innocence throughout — but Corfixen manages to give each perspective time, space, and voice in a balanced way.

The result is an engrossing read that captures the reader’s attention and offers them a textured sense of the macro Danish world and the micro-culture of the Nykøbing Falster Hospital in which Hansen lived, worked, and committed her crimes. From the book’s beginning to its end, despite knowing the final outcome, I was compelled to keep reading, not to know what happens, but how it happened and why.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s