A bouquet of violently bright orchids is delivered to our house. For Ayoola. She leans forward and picks out the card that is tucked between the stems. She smiles. *“It is from Tade.” *Is this how he sees her? An exotic beauty? I console myself with the knowledge that even the most beautiful flowers wither and die. *She takes out her phone and begins to type a message, narrating her text out loud – “I. Really. Prefer. Roses.”My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
My Sister the Serial Killer is a thriller about a young woman named Korede who, as the oldest sister, has been given the task of always protecting her younger sister Ayoola from the outside world. Korede, however, has been keeping a secret: again and again, Ayoola’s boyfriends end up dead by her hand, and Korede helps her to hide the bodies. Ayoola always claims that the deaths are accidents, but Korede knows better – there is something deeply wrong with Ayoola and the “accidents” will not stop. When Ayoola meets Korede’s handsome doctor friend, they instantly are attracted to one another, but Korede finds herself torn between her own feelings for the doctor, and her duty to protect her sister from the consequences of her actions.
One of the things I love the most about reading is the opportunity to immerse myself inside a different culture. Fortunately, Braithwaite does an incredible job of dropping cultural details about life in Nigeria, without making the novel feel too much like a travel guide. From the language variation woven seamlessly throughout the dialogue, to the familial dynamic in Korede’s family, to the political conflicts during the murder investigation, I got the feeling of being dropped into a new location with new rules that I had to learn as Braithwaite chose to share them. She never got too heavy-handed with defining words or concepts; instead, she trusted the reader to figure things out from context. I loved how seamless this made the narrative.
As with most thrillers, the most compelling aspect of the novel was undoubtedly the plot. Braithwaite did a great job of dropping enough details about the deaths to make the reader feel included, without just dumping everything and spoiling the tension that comes from missing information. For a book about murder, there wasn’t really all that much actual action; instead, the tension in this one comes from anticipation – the reader knows that something has to break, and just doesn’t know where the characters will be after.
Despite the dominance of plot over characters, there still was some stellar character development. Korede and Ayoola in particular were complex, interesting characters, and I could easily read another dozen books from their perspective – I loved getting inside Korede’s head, seeing her thought process and motivations, and appreciated seeing Ayoola specifically through Korede’s eyes. Some of the best tension of the novel was watching things unfold and wondering whether it would be enough to change Korede and Ayoola, or if they would just continue to do what they’ve always done. I really appreciated the complicated bond between the two – Korede obviously loves her sister, even if she doesn’t like or respect her very much, and that is such an interesting, complex motivation for her actions.
In all, I will give My Sister, the Serial Killer a 9 out of 10. I loved the tension between Korede and Ayoola, and really appreciated the setting, as it gave me such a drastically different perspective than I would normally get from your average U.S. murder mystery. I think most readers will really enjoy this one, unless they want their fiction to be lighter or less violent.