Book Review – My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

books, reviews

38819868._sy475_-15_star_rating_system_4_stars1 What would you do to keep your family safe? That’s the question at the heart of my last read. I feel like I’ve seen this book everywhere. It’s been getting huge attention and has been nominated for so many awards. Did I buy it because of either of those facts? Of course not, I bought it because I loved the bright green font on the cover and because it was going cheap on Amazon. Yes, these aren’t the greatest reasons to buy a book but they’re the reasons that I go with most of the time. And you can’t really ignore the title either. It’s got that Snakes on a Plane simplicity that I really like. Forget books with deep and meaningful titles that you have to deconstruct. I want it to do what it says on the tin. I genuinely believe that writers should stop thinking about their titles so much. The best way to draw somebody in is to make the title super relevant and irresistible. A title like this does both remarkably well. You have to pick it up.

My Sister, the Serial Killer is one of those books that makes a lot of promises from its title. And Oyinkan Braithwaite’s debut novel certainly kicks off with a bang. Leaving no time to get ourselves ready, we are plunged straight into the moment that Korede is cleaning up the blood of her sister’s latest kill. She is scrubbing the bathroom floor and making sure to get in all of those tricky corners. But she’s used to this by now. This is the third boyfriend that Ayoola has killed and had her sister dispose of. Each time, she claimed it was self-defence. They had attacked her first and she had no choice. Korede doesn’t question this. Even though her latest victim was stabbed multiple times. All Korede is really bothered about is keeping her little sister out of trouble.

Until things get more complicated. Ayoola sets her sights on one of the doctors that Korede works with. She is employed as a nurse at the local hospital and has struck up a friendship with a young doctor there. A young doctor upon whom Korede has a crush. Unfortunately, he only has eyes for Ayoola. When the pair start dating, Korede finds her loyalties torn between the man she has feelings for and the sister she would do anything to protect.  And, once Ayoola starts behaving irrationally again, it becomes clear that things aren’t ever going to change. Can Korede prevent Tade from becoming just another body she has to throw in the lake?

My Sister, the Serial Killer wasn’t the book I was expecting it to be. The title made it sound like a trashy crime thriller. An interesting one but a by-the-book crime thriller. What it actually turns into is a very clever and emotional study of sisters. It’s so much better than I was expecting. The book doesn’t really really focus on the crimes themselves or why they happened. It spends its time looking into the central relationship. This is an account of that strong familial bond that moves people to do crazy things. It’s the story of sisterhood. Yes, it’s absurd but the narrative works because it’s entirely plausible. People have done plenty of things in the name of family and Korede’s actions are just part of her role as big sister.

Oyinkan Braithwaite’s debut novel is an assured piece of writing. It is super easy to read and is very enjoyable. There is plenty of dark humour when it comes to the murders themselves and it includes analysis on plenty of great topics. The narrative provides insights into social media, beauty standards, men’s desires, and the way women can take advantage of them. A lot is made about the contrast in the appearance of the sisters. Korede has been treated differently to her sister from an early age. The boys at school bullied and belittled her. Yet they fawned over Ayoola and men have continued to do so ever since. Something that she uses to get herself out of sticky situations. It leads to plenty of frustration and from Korede but she never loses sight of her need to protect her sister.

The book is a quick read so it doesn’t delve too deeply into the pasts. We don’t have a huge psychological analysis of why the sisters have turned out the way that they have. Although, we get a glimpse at one of the biggest events of their childhood. We don’t get the full picture but it is enough to lead us to this point. A point where both sisters are dangerous in their own way. Braithwaite never portrays either sister as good or evil. They are both skating the line between the two. And though Ayoola may be the killer amongst the pair, Korede is not to be messed with. The further we get through the novel the more we realise that she isn’t the victim we want her to be. Life is much more complicated than that after all. The great strength of this novel is in the characters. Ayoola is fabulous as she confidently breezes through life and getting away with murder. She is a heartless killer but you can’t help but like her. It’s a weird and wonderful thing.

My Sister, the Serial Killer is a book that will definitely take you on a journey. It introduces you to some interesting characters and forces you to look at things in different ways. It also makes wonderful use of its setting. Braithwaite’s novel takes place in Lagos and the character of the city comes to life through the pages. You get a real sense of place and it helps in bringing a sense of reality to the concept. But, I still find myself wanting more. I’ve wrestled with my rating since I finished this book. I really enjoyed reading it and got through it in no time. It’s well-written, funny, and it has great emotional depth. Yet, I wish it had just gone a bit deeper. There are so many moments where the love triangle elements come over too strong. Things start to resemble quite teen drama. I guess I just wish it had slowed down a bit. We race through the narrative and it’s over so quickly. I would have liked more time in this world.

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