Title: My Sister, The Serial Killer
Author: Oyinkan Braithwaite
Genre: Literary Fiction, Thrillers
Publisher: Doubleday Books (US) / Atlantic Books (UK)
Publication date: November 2018 / January 2019
Hardcover: 240 pages
When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other…
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
How did I get this book: Bought
Format (e- or p-): print
What would you do for those you love? How far would you go for them?
My Sister, The Serial Killer, a new murder thriller by debut author Oyinkan Braithwaite asks these and other ethically complicated questions. The opening act throws the reader immediately into the moral waters of the main character Korede’s complicity with the murders committed by her beloved younger sister Aylooa.
“You’re a big sister now, Korede. And big sisters look after little sisters.”
The novel opens with Korede getting a fateful phone call from Aylooa, who has just killed her boyfriend (in self-defence, she says) and will Korede please come and help her. “Helping” means rubber gloves, bleach and a willingness to help dispose of the body and cover their tracks. What we soon come to learn is that this is not the first time Aylooa killed in self-defence. It is in fact, the third time. The third time that Korede has helped covering it up too. And if the third killing makes Aylooa technically, a serial killer, what does that make Korede?
Without anyone she can share her thoughts with (she really cannot talk to their mother), Korede unburdens her heavy heart to a comatose patient at the hospital she works as a nurse. But one day, the patient wakes up and he tells her that he remembers everything she has ever told him. To complicate matters even further, Aylooa shows interest in dating Tade, the kind, thoughtful doctor Korede is in love with. Will Aylooa do it again? Will Tade be the next one? Has Korede’s competence in cleaning crime scenes enabled Aylooa to feel even freer to commit these murders?
Korede, as the dutiful, plain, older sister to Aylooa’s flashy, vibrant beauty has experienced different treatment all their lives – from home life to society at large. Seeing the way people treat beautiful vs plain women has really opened Korede eyes, and her narrative encompasses a witty criticism and observation. But the same thing happens with Tade too, Korede wanders if he is really that kind and thoughtful or yet another man looking for “superficial beauty”, whatever that may mean?
Speaking of their home life, the sisters guard yet another secret, something so portentous and enormous it only appears in the narrative as snippets from the past. But those snippets serve to anchor the sisters’ bond even deeper. There is a lifetime of endurance and a legacy of violence that may be at the core of what has shaped Aylooa into what she is – or at least, this is another potential question raised by the book with respect to nature versus nurture.
Beneath Oyinkan Braithwaite’s crisp, sparse, darkly funny prose lies a thoughtful, astute look at sisterhood, beauty, social media, what men want, how women respond to that and more importantly, the legacy of abuse and privilege.
Already a notable read of 2019.
Rating: 8 – Excellent