My Sister, the Serial Killer
If you’re looking for a traditional crime thriller, this probably isn’t the book for you. In spite of its title, the book has very little to do with murder and much more to do with complex family dynamics, love and loyalty. I do think there is something for pretty much everyone in this book though. It has the suspense of a thriller, elements of a romance novel while still providing the reader with moments of laugh-out-loud comedy.
My Sister, the Serial Killer is a story about a girl whose sister has developed a habit of murdering her boyfriends - even though she maintains they were carried out in self defence. Korede is willing enough to help Ayoola cover up her misdeeds but this all begins to change once Ayoola starts dating Tade. Tade is not only Korede’s co-worker at the hospital she works at, but he is also a man who she has long been in love with. With conflicting emotions of guilt, jealousy and fear for Tade’s safety, Korede’s loyalty to her sister is increasingly put under strain. The book tracks the sisters’ complicated relationship and Korede’s guilt-ridden conscience that threatens to reveal the pair’s biggest secret.
I think the novel’s biggest credit is Braithwaite’s ability to create wildly entertaining characters who provide the story with such rich depth. Our narrator is a likeable character: she is the overlooked sister, intelligent and compassionate, but fatefully less attractive than her younger sibling. Ayoola’s pretty privilege means that she quite literally is able to get away with murder. Korede meanwhile is forced to watch from the sidelines, cleaning up her mess as she goes.
The author admits that a large focus for the book was in society’s engagement with beauty and how beauty and goodness are not always synonymous. In the book this is manifested through Ayoola being exempt from punishment, largely because the entire Lagos police force have fallen for her good looks. While the book is set in the contemporary, it engages with some very age-old themes such as the belief that what is inside a person is reflected onto their outward appearance.
Another way this theme of appearance versus reality is shown in the novel is through social media. The author believed that to write a contemporary novel about two young women, social media would inevitably have to play a part. There are several occasions within the book that Korede tells her sister to refrain from posting on Snapchat or Instagram in fear people would question why she isn’t mourning her ‘missing’ boyfriend. The book asks us to question our own online authenticity and to what extent we are being our true selves on social media.
I think the author did a particularly good job at exploring family dynamics and, more specifically, how a daughter’s relationship with her father can have an impact on relationships in later life. Despite their father being deceased, he plays a prominent role in the novel through frequent flashbacks which show the extent of his abuse against his wife and two daughters. These provided some context to an otherwise random display of violence by Ayoola against her previous boyfriends. It also helped to understand why Korede is so willing to protect her sister, in spite of her criminal tendencies. If anything, I think this could have been explored in a little more depth, but I still think it worked well in the book.
The book’s short chapters enabled the narrative to keep pace, marrying perfectly alongside the satiric and often dark humour of our narrator. Normally I’m not a big fan of short chapters, they break the narrative flow and, to be honest, they encourage me to be a lazy reader since I tend to stop reading once I get to the end of a chapter. But, with My Sister, the Serial Killer, the concise and sometimes ambiguous nature of the writing really highlighted Braithwaite’s wide-ranging skills as a poet.
One of the most unique books I’ve read, easy to read and guaranteed to make you laugh. The cover is also very pretty, so that’s a bonus.
Definitely one to add to your summer reading list. 9/10.
If you are as enthralled by this book as I am, I would definitely recommend giving the Reading Women’s Podcast a go. They recently uploaded an interview with Oyinkan Braithwaite which you can find here.