Short Take: “Sick, Part II,” Christa Wojciechowski

Pros: Morbidly fascinating
Cons: The characters are over-the-top
Rating: 4 out of 5

Christa Wojciechowski’s novella “Sick: Part II” is part of her SICK: Psychological Suspense Series Box Set, which includes three volumes. In volume I, Nurse Susan Branch tried to juggle a job with taking care of her seriously (and mysteriously) ill husband, John. Now Susan has just lost her job, only to find out when she arrived home early that her husband, who has spent nearly all of his life battling illness and injury, has been doing it to himself deliberately. It seems to be a combination of a need for attention and a not-so-healthy dose of masochism. In a flying rage, she beat him with the hammer he’d been using to raise his own bruises. In response, John is… happy. While Susan is trying to cope with what she’s just learned, John is trying to push their relationship to a new level. He wants them to be co-conspirators now.

As I noted in my review of volume I, these are not likable characters. It’s for the best that these three novellas are fairly short, because they rely on a kind of train-wreck fascination with horrible people, and that only goes so far. This time the story is from John’s point of view, and he spends the time telling Susan all about his childhood and how it shaped his current behavior. His childhood was another kind of train wreck altogether. There’s some hint that part of his mental illness might be inherited, and the rest was clearly shaped by the events of his childhood. I am curious to see where things go in volume III. It’s interesting to see the couple’s evolution from caretaker/invalid to possible co-conspirators.

Content note for sexual content, violence, and animal harm.

I wanted for both of us to let out our Mr. Hydes to play together.

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