Where should our loyalties lie, author Oyinkan Braithwaite seems to pose in her sharp debut novel “My Sister the Serial Killer”: with family or with love? Korede, a brainy nurse from Lagos, finds herself in just this position when she’s torn between the doctor she loves and her younger sister, for whom she was always responsible.
Because things with sister Ayoola are, well, complicated. She’s stunningly beautiful, and selfish... and happens to have killed her last three boyfriends — all in self-defense, she claims. “Femi makes three you know,” Korede chastises. “Three, and they label you a serial killer.”
The book opens with Korede coming to her sister’s rescue once again with some rubber gloves, a bottle of bleach, and a car with a large trunk. Instead of being angry or shocked, at this point Korede is simply annoyed. “I was about to eat when she called me,” she complains. “By the time I get home, the food will be cold.”
This sharp, dark humor continues at the hospital, Korede’s only escape from her family. Here she can confess her secrets to a neglected coma patient and dream of a life with Tade, a handsome doctor. But when Ayoola comes to visit and sets her sights on Tade, Korede is pushed to her breaking point. She has to stop her sister — or confess everything to Tade — before it’s too late.
A delicious noir written in short, tight chapters, “My Sister the Serial Killer” still provides some food for thought, as Braithwaite weaves in the story of Korede and Ayoola’s childhood, revealing an abusive father who may not have died of natural causes.
And while the characters, Ayoola especially, could use some rounding out, Braithwaite’s debut is unforgettable entertainment. There are more deaths – and one near miss – before the book’s final conclusion, and a delightful last-minute surprise threatens to bring the sisters’ entire world crashing down.
Smart and chock full of noir swagger, “My Sister the Serial Killer” is a sly novel about loyalty, sincerity, and just how far we’d go for someone we love.