Book Review: My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite 

When Korede gets a panicky call from her beautiful younger sister Ayoola, she knows she has to drop everything and help her. Korede is a nurse and a hygiene obsessive, so who better to clean up Ayoola’s unusual situation?

And just what is that unusual situation? Well, Ayoola has killed her boyfriend again. This is the third. Apparently, that makes her a serial killer. According to Ayoola, all three were in self-defence. The first two times, Korede believed her but this latest man was a poet. A tender man who was loved by his family. Korede can’t imagine him as the brute that Ayoola paints a picture of. Then there’s the knife that once belonged to their father. If these men really attacked Ayoola out of the blue, why was she carrying the knife with her, and why does she still insist on keeping it?

Still, Ayoola’s her little sister. Korede must look after her, come what may. That is until Ayoola comes to the attention of Tade, a doctor at Korede’s hospital and the man Korede is secretly in love with. Just as they all do, Tade soon becomes obsessed with Ayoola and Korede knows, it’s only a matter of time before he becomes victim number four. How far can Korede’s loyalty stretch when the man she loves is in real danger?

I read this novel in two nights. Partly because it’s quite short but mostly because it’s one of those stories that grabs you and leaves you wanting to read just one more chapter. The plot is pacey and the humour, darkly comic. As well as the unusual premise, I particularly enjoyed the way the storyline interweaves a narrative on the Nigerian middle-class (the story is set in Lagos). I have no idea how accurately it reflects middle-class life in that country but I found it as interesting as the main plot.

There were a couple of minor negative points for me. I felt some of the characters could have been fleshed out a little more and while I understood that Ayoola was beautiful, I failed to pick up on what was so charming about her that made everyone fall at her feet – women as well as men. I realise we saw her through her sister’s eyes and her sister was equally nonplussed but an occasional hint would have added to the story’s believability. In the end, I could only conclude that Braithwaite was commenting on the shallowness of Nigerian society, or even society as a whole. That said, there is plenty in this book to like and I was so carried along with it that these slight niggles didn’t really occur to me until well after I’d finished.

Korede is an intriguing and complex character who carries the reader along with her, making it easy to see people and scenarios through her eyes. As the story unfolds through present day scenes and flashbacks, a disturbing past is revealed that explains why the two sisters are the way they are. Throughout the story Korede appears to be the innocent, dragged in against her will but as we get to the end of the book there’s a suggestion that she is perhaps not the innocent we’ve assumed she is, and a final flashback of a scene with their abusive father hints at the real reason why the two sisters are forever tied in a twisted knot.       

Overall, a gripping read. Well worth overlooking a few small gaps.

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