Ah, serial killer books. The guilty pleasure of many and watchlist fodder of the FBI.
Before Google stopped bothering with my internet search history and went straight to reading my mind, the ads I got weren’t the best.
Hungry? There’s this burger…
Thirsty? There’s this water that will go great with that burger.
Out of toilet paper? We don’t know if you’ve heard of burger patties, but—
Anyway, when they really focused, it was clear to them that I had a morbid interest in serial killers, the human body, and books. As such, I started to get recommendations for ‘dark and gritty’ entertainment.
Among the suggestions were novels like I am not a serial killer, Darkly Dreaming Dexter and (lol) The Broken Empire by Mark Lawrence (which I thoroughly enjoyed). There’s something about badass characters who are genuinely terrible people that makes the book interesting. Oftentimes a main character’s actions are so deplorable that there is no doubt in your mind that they are the villain of the story. With some hard drugs and soft introspection, you may even need to sit down with a licensed therapist after reading the books and explain why you were rooting for them.
But that’s not the case with “My Sister, the Serial Killer” by Oyinkan Braithwaite.
Now, as an African myself, it was great to see a book like this, one that was not magical realism (at least not in my personal interpretation), was not a ‘serious novel’ written for ‘serious novel awards’ and was most importantly (again, I must emphasize, to me) not about:
- HIV or AIDS
- Street kids
- Unhappy marriages
- Being the only person from a village to go to university in the city and then indulging in drugs and women.
The reason for my aversion to these types of stories is because I read a lot of them already, particularly when I was about twelve years old. Right around the time I discovered the wonder of fantasy novels and figured out which books I absolutely love (Hint: absolutely not non-fiction).
Before I go into the novel, I will, against my better judgment, say that I have discussed often, how easy it is to commit murder in my country. All you really need is your chosen method and the ability to keep your mouth shut about it. So when I saw that a book about a serial killer was coming out, I can honestly say I kinda spazzed to my friends because “A serial killer who looks like me?”
“My Sister, the Serial Killer” takes place in Nigeria and follows the story of Korede, whose sister murders her boyfriends, calls her up (or texts) , says it was self defense and lets Korede take care of it.
Now, the first murder clean-up we’re privy to, is that of a pretty boy (with abs) called Femi. They wrap him up in some sheets, go down an elevator, throw him in a trunk and let a river take care of the rest.
Now, and this is important, if this story was based in any country that has working CCTV and a competent police force, this murder and poor dispatch would have probably been solved the next day before dinnertime, because short of leaving behind their IDs, phone numbers and video evidence just for kicks, the sisters definitely left DNA in the elevator and were also kinda sorta seen by the guy’s neighbor, though it was ‘too dark’.
Sounds ridiculous but the thing is, the story is plausible. You don’t need to suspend belief if you’ve dealt with a similar justice system. I once knew someone who vaguely recollected to me that years before they permanently moved to the city, they had found a dead body when they were working in a rural area, and they could not report it to the police because in my country, the person who discovers the body is the prime suspect, and if they don’t find anyone else, you take the fall, simple as that.
But DNA spatterings aside (though Korede did bleach the house in a seemingly obsessive manner), I have several issues with the story.
The novel’s plot seems to exist on the premise that Korede cares about her sister, but is extremely jealous of her. Korede was judgmental, arrogant, self-righteous and whiny… and because of all that, I thought I would end up liking her sister more because as Korede was so unpleasant, surely someone else in the book had to be decent. But as I read on, I ended up on the hill of: “I don’t condone killing your sister, but if you do…”
Ayoola—the sister—is beautiful, in an almost ‘magical realism’ type of way. When she enters a room, time stops, people stare, birds fly into windows… When Ayoola is introduced to others as the MC’s sister, people seem to have obvious questions, both asked and unasked—
“Are you sure?”
“Sister as in… from church?”
Ayoola is light skinned and Korede is dark (someone more capable than me can go into colorism because it may be important here but generally, it wasn’t that deep); Ayoola is gorgeous and Korede is… not. Ayoola has a free spirited, work from home when she feels like it type of job (fashion designer, and she models her own clothes) and Korede is an underappreciated nurse.
Ayoola is portrayed as an irresistible beauty, one that knows it, and I was starting to think that maybe I was biased because she was hot, but then she ‘shows interest’ in a doctor Korede has been in love with for ages.
And by in love, I mean she’s watched him, eaten with him once or twice, and seems to know absolutely nothing of substance about him. She has not told him she likes him, and he is oblivious to her desire, and seemingly that of everyone around him.
By all rights, Korede deserves him for her perseverance or something.
But in comes man-killer, Ayoola, and Hot Doctor Person suddenly is not some sort of asexual.
Figuring out that the reason her sister never wanted her to visit her at work is because of the Hot Doctor Man, Ayoola tells her that men love pretty faces and ‘Men are all the same’ . She also says she will prove these statements to Korede.
So here’s the thing:
- There was really no need for that.
- Them’s fighting words.
Korede should have beaten her ass for that because she was definitely calling her ugly.
Ayoola could have anyone. And she always does. But the declaration that she could have the man Korede has been pining for, cements the idea that Ayoola is also unnecessarily cruel to her sister, and any kindness that she may show, in any way, to Korede, is simply coincidental.
Ayoola seems to be a psychopath (sociopath?). She is an intelligent and charming narcissist, and after her murders, she shows no remorse of any kind and goes about her day, even having to be reminded to ‘grieve’ by Korede.
Even with someone as unlikeable as Ayoola, it was hard to root for Korede in any sort of way. I think it was because she was too realistic. I did relate to her a little (and after looking deep inside myself, I suspect that perhaps I, too, am incredibly annoying).
Korede was unbelievably petty, she wasn’t as smart as she thought she was, and she was consumed by jealousy for her sister while also wanting to protect her. She complained about everyone and had a victim complex so deeply entwined with her inferiority complex, they could have created a black hole of self-pity and self-absorbance.
Something that made me angry was Korede cleaning up after Ayoola’s bloody messes. If my sister called me up to essentially do chores, I would swiftly hang up on her.
“Hey, um, someone fell on my knife and I need your help scrubbing the floors so— hello? Hello?”
You would never find me scrubbing the blood out of anyone’s carpet. (Fineprint: Without proper compensation)
Is the book worth reading? A soft yes from me. I complained about the characters like they were real people. And that’s not always a bad thing for me. I was invested enough for it to raise my blood pressure. Kudos, book.
The chapters with the girl’s father were absolutely fascinating to me, and those sections were beautiful to read. Those were honestly my favourite parts.
Oyinkan Braithwaite knows how to write believably human characters. This is not a novel about a villain and a hero trying to save something or overcome something. If anything, this is more the tale of someone who would usually be a side character.
The story is told in a light hearted manner, but it wasn’t laugh out loud funny. Maybe one page did get a soft ‘released puff of breath from the nose’ type of chuckle but I can’t recall. Additionally, the story did feel incomplete because Ayoola’s motivations are never really revealed or even looked into and her relationship with Korede is only told through Korede’s green-eyed gaze.
It was an alright read, a good read at times even, but it could have been a lot better.
A 3.5/5 from me.
If you liked the review, prepare for some good old fashioned author pandering:
Now, you may be thinking “Hey, I like this person’s brand of humor” or “Dang, this review was fun, let’s see what else they got” or even “Golly gee willikers, I wanna read whatever else this writer has written”.
To which I say: “Totally understandable, but why are you talking like that?”
Fair warning: though I read a wide range of genres (fantasy, lit rpg, wuxia, webtoons…) and frequently scour through r/nosleep, I write… *drumroll* romantic comedies.
Now hold on, don’t run off just yet. Let me at least get my pitch out, dang.
You might be thinking “Why should I read your books, author-that-is-currently-holding-my-family-hostage?”
Well, because I guarantee that my writing will deliver at least one “hyuk” per book or your money back (sorry that’s a lie. Instead of giving you a refund, you can have a fight to the death with any of the other authors. I suggest Damien. Really, where else will you get a deal like this?).
Additionally, for the price of one book, your family will be safe for the low, low price of another book.
(Can you tell I went to business school? ‘Cause I didn’t).
Granted, if romance isn’t your cup of tea, I wrote a creepy story for the author’s anthology called “Zamaya Sesinde” which is about a crossroads demon (always fun, and fans of the earlier seasons of Supernatural might like it. So go on, don’t be shy, go get that book).
Save your family at: Buy Cali Burem Books Now Or Else.