Review: My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Opening sentence: “Ayoola summons me with these words – Korede, I killed him.”

I was so pleased to see this on the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist as it is a truly great read! I have to admit, I did judge My Sister, the Serial Killer by its cover (and title) – I mean look at it! How could you NOT want to pick it up and start reading immediately? Initially sucked in, I opened this just to scan the first few pages – to get a feel for the tone – and could NOT put it down, resulting in reading half in one sitting and finishing it the next day. A good sign, you might be thinking? You are correct. My Sister, the Serial Killer is a fiendishly brilliant book. It’s been a while since I’ve picked up something so sharp, satirical and perfectly deadpan.

Set in Lagos, Nigeria, this is the story of the very warped but unquestionably loyal relationship between sisters Ayoola and Korede. Given the title of this book, it’s no spoiler to say that it focuses on the fact that Korede knows her sister has killed, ‘Femi makes three, you know. Three, and they label you a serial killer.’ She not only keeps her sister’s secret, but she helps her literally clean up the mess, scrubbing blood from the floor. She lies for her, puts herself in perilous situations and as another character points out: ‘There’s something wrong with her… but you? What’s your excuse?’

All told from Korede’s point of view, she is a really interesting character. For someone so enslaved to her sister’s actions, she is decidedly independent, intelligent and no pushover. Ayoola is beautiful and charms everyone she meets but there are daddy issues and being the favourite – and youngest – child she has never been held responsible for any of her actions. Her big sister is always there to look out for her. We don’t find out why Ayoola kills, aside from implications she is some sort of sociopath, ‘It is a mystery how much feeling Ayoola is even capable of.’

I read My Sister, the Serial Killer right after the mind-twisting epic that was The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, so that made it an even more refreshing, enjoyable read for me; the linear, snappy narrative and super-short chapters, each with their own title, give it a real punchy flow – it’s just so easy to read that you won’t be able to stop.

Being beautiful means you really can get away with murder… as long as your sister has your back.

/ Published in 2018 by Atlantic Books

/ 223 pages

/ Rating: 5/5 

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