The first thing that stands out when embarking on My Sister the Serial Killer novel is the incredibly short chapters, this instantly creates a fast pace that gets your heart racing from the very first page. Anticipation is ignited though the pace and the opening sentence:
Ayoola summons me with these words – Korede, I killed him.
This novel really is a ‘no frills’ ride. Each chapter titled with a single word that is the context for what is to follow. Compellingly engaging in its simplicity, clever in its execution, the hook will see you frantically to the denouement.
My Sister The Serial Killer is set in Lagos, Nigeria. Korede is a nurse in a local hospital and struggles to find a balance in her work and home life; especially as her sister, Ayoola, keeps bumping off her boyfriends, and Korede is commanded to pick up the pieces. Essentially clearing up the blood and disposing of the bodies.
As the plot unfolds, the story of their childhood and abusive father helps the reader understand why Koede is prepared to risk everything in order to help her sister. There are little snippets into the Nigerian way of life, but these only serve to move the story on, not inform or educate. This is a story about three women, all with their own strengths and weaknesses, all bound together with one common aim, to support each other in the face of adversity.
On the face of it, Koede is the matriarch, the piece that holds the puzzle together. But she hides a host of vulnerability and insecurities. Growing up with a sister who men and women alike view as a beauty to be admired with all-encompassing adoration, Koede views herself as the ugly sister, the one who never gets her man. And yet, Ayoola, with her flighty ways, exuding confidence to the outside world, will always be the baby of the family, will always need her sister to clear up after her, practically, and metaphorically.
This is a novel jam-packed with character, there is no plot twist; there are revelations, but they clearly serve to reinforce the characterisation and personalities of the women at the centre of the story. As a reader, the minutiae establish a bond, and a fondness towards the sisters who, after all, are murdering innocent people and disposing of the bodies in a less than reverent manner.
Braithwaite may well have used this novel as a vehicle to break her writer’s block, but she has shown an understanding of the varying stages of what it is like to be a woman in a sensitive, dark, and often hilarious way. Her novel is brave and daring, and so are her larger than life characters.
About Oyinkan Braithwaite
Oyinkan Braithwaite is a Nigerian/UK novelist and writer. Born in Lagos in 1988 she divided her time between both the UK and Nigeria. Braithwaite’s higher education was completed in the UK, becoming a graduate in Creative Writing and Law from Kingston University.
Her post-graduate career began when she landed a job as an assistant editor for a Nigerian publishing house. My Sister The Serial Killer, despite being written over a one month period, has proved to be a huge success for Braithwaite, earning her recognition and a long list of nominations and awards.
The rather dark, but comedic, novel won the 2019 LA Times Award for Best Crime Thriller, the 2019 Morning News Tournament of Books, the 2019 Amazon Publishing Reader’s Award for Best Debut Novel, the 2019 Anthony Award for Best First Novel. It was also shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019, longlisted for the Booker Prize 2019, and longlisted for the 2020 Dublin Literary Award. Not only that, it has been translated into ten languages and been optioned for film.