My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
My Sister, the Serial Killer is the debut novel from spoken word artist and writer Oyinkan Braithwaite. As of writing, it has won the 2019 LA Times Award for Best Crime Thriller, the 2019 Morning News Tournament of Books and was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019. As well as these literary accolades, the film rights have already been optioned, so keep an eye out for more details on that in the future.
When Korede receives an evening phone call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what to expect before she even answers. She’s called her like this twice before; each time in desperate need of help. Ayoola had murdered two of her previous boyfriends in what she described as ‘self-defence’ and Korede knows right away that she’s done it again.
Korede puts together a cleaning kit and goes to help her sister, just like she always does. But this time Korede feels worse than ever as she helps her sister clean the flat and get rid of the body. This time Ayoola seems so nonchalant about the murder and as the days pass, it’s Korede who reminds her not to appear too happy on social media, to keep her head down and play the part of a distraught girlfriend.
There’s only one person that Korede shares her sister’s secret with and that’s her most trustworthy of patients at the hospital she works at, a coma patient, one who has been unconscious for so long that even his family have stopped visiting. He can’t give her advice but having someone to talk to helps to keep her sane. He’s the only living man who knows what a threat her sister is to the men of Nigeria.
As well as her coma patient, there’s one other man that brightens her days at the hospital and that’s the handsome doctor who sees her as a great colleague but nothing else. Then one day Ayoola comes to see her sister at work and the man Korede loves falls head over heels for her beautiful sister, the killer.
Although the narrative sounds dramatic, My Sister the Serial Killer is written in a fast-paced, almost farcical style that I adored for the first chapter. Korede sees herself as the dowdy sister in comparison to her wide-eyed, voluptuous sister but the flashbacks to their violent childhood explain why she’s compelled to look after her. The setting in modern Trinidad and the pressures that Korede finds herself under as a single woman there adds a level of tension to her situation you might not find if it was set in a different location.
It’s a testament to Oyinkan’s writing style that she can maintain a unique blend of tension and dark humour. You’re drawn in immediately and the brief, bite-sized chapters only add to how easily you’ll devour this book. I often struggle to find novels that actually cause me to laugh out loud but this book had me giggling and holding my breath in equal measure. Recently, I’ve really struggled to find books I adore but My Sister the Serial Killer has been a shining star and I can undoubtedly call one of my books of the year.
Thank you to Atlantic Books for providing me with a review copy.
If you like My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite you’ll love The Humorist by Russell Kane.