Book review: ‘My sister, the serial killer’ by Oyinkan Braithwaite

(no spoilers)

‘My sister, the serial killer’ is a story about ‘family’ – and a fucked up one at that. It speaks strongly to the age-old sibling relationship where you simultaneously hate their guts while also screaming: “Leave her alone, asswipe! I’m the only one who can kick my sister!”

Korede and Ayoola are two such sisters; complete opposites in almost every way, but most noticeably in appearance, intelligence and worldview. Korede is a nurse who compulsively cleans every surface around her, whose best friend is ‘coma guy’ and whose purpose it is to wipe away all the consequences of her sister’s impulsive (and seemingly compulsive) actions. You see, if you hadn’t guessed from the title – her sister Ayooda is a serial killer.

Blanche Taylor Moore
Blanche Taylor Moore – gives me the heebie-jeebies

Let’s be honest, the majority of us picked up the book because of the dope neon cover and the words ‘serial killer’. There’s something about that phrase that titillates those of us currently addicted to true crime documentaries (don’t judge), and as we find out, that same titillation applies inside the book to the characters themselves – specifically Ayoola who appears to be a cross between Rihanna and Blanche Taylor Moore.

The sparing words in the first chapter alone pop off the page like a promise of something juicy and exciting – and each page delivers more of the style and lemon-so-bitter-you-can-taste-it imagery that you hoped to get when you picked it up.

That being said, it was only when writing this review and revisiting the cover that I noticed the knife in her sunglasses, which I thought was just a light reflection (duh). Deliberate or not, I think is a pretty neat nod to Ayoola’s dynamic; she’s so well-dressed, so beautiful and intoxicating that the men and women in the book can’t see what’s truly in front of them until it’s too late.

She is a black widow, a “dangerous woman” (in Korede’s own words), and a lost little girl. We jump into the story at the death of a third boyfriend at Ayoola’s hands (rendering her, as a Google search by Korede confirms, a true serial killer). All her life, Ayoola has escaped punishment because she’s pretty and able to manipulate people with carefully timed tears or a seductive look. We watch from the outside, as Korede is the one whose head we inhabit; watching incredulously as her sister behaves more and more erratically, seemingly unable to empathise with anyone or anything.

It is only until Ayoola starts to zero in on Korede’s dream man that she finally finds a reason to speak up. Up with this, she will not put.  

This book is morbidly comical, with a great writing style that is poetic in its structure (there’s a lot of small chapters reminiscent of poetry collections) and keeps you entertained. In my opinion, it does lose its way towards the end, due to a few random 500 word ‘flashback’ or ‘consideration’ chapters inserts inside of an otherwise well-paced scene. The story becomes a little weaker in the last few chapters and I wasn’t keen on the ending either, though it is obvious where Oyinkan was limited by her characters to create something more satisfying.

But don’t let that stop you – if you like original characters, fresh writing styles and you’re partial to a bit of dark subject matter, then give this one a flick (naughty).

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