Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Book Review | My Sister The Serial Killer

My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, is a morbid comedy set in Lagos, Nigeria which follows the story of sisters Ayoola and Korede in the wake of the violent murder of Femi, Ayoola's boyfriend.

"I killed him"
"Korede, I killed him", are the chilling words spoken by younger sister Ayoola. They are words which instantly introduces us to the storyline. Femi has been fatally stabbed by Ayoola. The murder weapon is a knife inherited from the girls' late father; and the scene, his bathroom. Upon receiving Ayoola's call, Korede dutifully drives to Femi's to help with the clean-up and concealment of the body. This is the scene setting first chapter which sets the tone for the girls' relationship. The rest of the text focuses on Korede’s and Ayoola’s  uneasy relationship, with small setions of it devoted to the murder investigation. Lastly, we get to discover if Ayoola's crime is ever uncovered.

Korede and Ayoola, although bound by their criminal activity, are very different – both in looks and personality. Korede, the oldest is nurturing, reserved, and a nurse by profession. She's tall, slim and dark in complexion. And whilst her sister is good at spilling blood, she's great at cleaning it up. Ayoola on the other hand is a carefree fashion designer who loves the limelight. She sports dreadlocks, is of fairer complexion and has a curvy figure -  one men find alluring, which ultimately leads to their demise.

ICYMI this week the longlist for the @womensprize for Fiction was announced. I have read two of the sixteen - An American Marriage and My Sister, The Serial Killer. They were both 5 🌟 reads for me. So I've decided I am going to attempt to read the remaining fourteen before the shortlist is announced. I kind of want to try to put together my guess for the shortlist. I put the full list below in case y'all are interested. Have you read or do you plan to read any books on the list?⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ Women's Prize Long List:⁣ - The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker⁣ - Remembered by Yvonne Battle-Felton - My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite⁣ - The Pisces by Melissa Broder⁣ - Milkman by Anna Burns⁣ - Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi⁣ - Ordinary People by Diana Evans⁣ - Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott⁣ - An American Marriage by Tayari Jones⁣ - Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li⁣ - Bottled Goods by Sophie van Llewyn⁣ - Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli⁣ - Praise Song for the Butterflies by Bernice L. McFadden⁣ - Circe by Madeline Miller⁣ - Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss⁣ - Normal People by Sally Rooney⁣⠀
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The book moves back and forth between  past and present. And it's the flashbacks which give us a window into the girls' childhood. We learn about their abusive father, docile mother and the fact that this is not the first time Ayoola has killed. 

The story is narrated by Korede, in the first person. It works because as the more observant character, it allows for some description of more peripheral characters – some of which bring a comedic aspect to the text. However, one set back of the narration is the limited insight we get into Ayoola’s psyche. We are hindered when it comes to knowing her motivations, and how she truly feels about the murders she has commited.  
It’s also worth noting that the chapters are short, and the chapter headings are concise – many of them one worded, such as: Words, Body, Scrubs, Patient, etc. This helps to speed up the pace of the story and give it the excitement it needs.

Crime Mystery or Family Saga?
Although the story is about a crime, I am hesitant to call it a crime thriller. I felt more emphasis was placed on the girls' relationship. This is highlighted through their competition for the affection of Dr Tade - a colleague of Korede, who quicklyly falls in love (or infatuation) with the sweet by dangerous Ayoola, and shunning Korede in the process. 

You may also want to read: Book & Event Review| Don't Touch My Hair

As usual, what I love about African storytelling is being immersed into African life. This was no different - I enjoyed my visit to Lagos whilst reading My Sister the Serial Killer. But whilst, I enjoyed the book, I didn't like the way eveything fitted eaily into African stereoypes: men are trash, lighter skinned women are more desireable, medical staff in hospitals are lazy, the police are corrupt, and so on. One could argue that the story was just reflecting reality, but it would have been nice to see some of those stereotypes challenged. 

Despite this, I must commend Oyinkan Braithwaite on her first novel. It was all in all an enjoyable read - and a different storyline from the norm. I listened to the audiobook, and enjoyed the accented narration. I hope you will be giving My Sister the Serial Killer a chance.



  1. I read it and really enjoyed it. I wouldn't call it a crime thriller either, because of the focus on the dynamic between the sisters. I wasn't too happy with the ending though, but I enjoyed the book very much. It wasn't too heavy and I wanted something lighthearted.

    Berry Dakara Blog

    1. I enjoyed it too, but just like you the ending left me wanting - and not in a good way! The writer could have done more with it.

  2. It sounds like an interesting book, although crime books / thriller style books aren't my kind of thing lately. It's so hard to find time to read I need a story that's not too suspenseful, haha!

    Hope that you have had a great weekend :)

    Away From Blue

    1. Hi Mica,

      Many thanks for visiting the blog! This one is not too heavy - in fact it's not a crime novel at all, but a family saga. Give it a go and let me know what you think!

  3. Any book or film that has a theme of serial killers tends to make for fascinating entertainment! The way this flips between past and present sounds really interesting too :) Thanks for the review, Madeline!

    aglassofice.com x

  4. That's an interesting title. I thought it was a metaphor for something else but alas, the sister is actually a serial killer!


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