My Sister, The Serial Killer (Atlantic Books 2018) is an astonishing debut by Nigerian writer Oyinkan Braithwaite. This darkly funny story is short, sharp and tautly crafted, with not a word wasted. The opening lines are:
‘Ayoola summons me with these words – Korede, I killed him.
I had hoped I would never hear those words again.’
Korede is a respectable nurse who occasionally receives frantic calls from her sister, Ayoola, asking her to help clean up a ‘situation’, to literally clean it up – she needs gloves, bleach and a strong stomach. Ayoola has a habit of killing her boyfriends in ‘self-defence’ and it is always Korede she turns to; only Korede knows her secret. The long-suffering Korede knows she should turn her sister in to the police, but family is everything, blood is thicker than water, and she loves her younger sister too much to hurt her. Even when Ayoola’s stories of self-defence become unbelievable, and she continues flouncing around with not a skerrick of remorse, as if nothing has happened, Korede still cannot bring herself to not help her when she gets into trouble.
But then Ayoola meets Tade, a doctor at the hospital where Korede works, a man Korede has long loved and cared for. Tade doesn’t know of her feelings or reciprocate them but thinks of her only as a good friend. When he meets her stunningly beautiful younger sister, and Ayoola turns on all her charms, Korede faces a terrible choice: does she continue to support her sister and risk Tade ending up with a knife in his back? Or does she warn him and risk alienating Ayoola? Will saving one mean sacrificing the other?
Korede often confides in a comatose patient in her care; she knows he will never repeat her terrible secrets. And the book flashes back from the perspectives of both sisters about their tyrannical father, how they suffered at his hands, how they enacted their quiet revenge and the shadow he still throws over their extended family life.
This is an easy to read book comprised of short chapters and simple words and phrases. The dialogue is punchy and authentic. The emotional blackmail of families is exposed. The characterisation of both sisters is intriguing. The writing is very, darkly funny. I suppose this could be classified as literary crime fiction. I really enjoyed it.