My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite: Doing the dirty work

Cover image I couldn’t resist the blurb for Oyinkan Braithwaite’s debut. A woman is about to sit down to supper when her sister calls. She’s killed another man and needs Korede’s peerless cleaning skills. Set in Lagos where Korede is a nurse and Ayoola charms men,  My Sister, the Serial Killer is a short, sharp blackly funny novel.

It’s not the first time Korede’s dealt with her sister’s victims. She meticulously cleans Femi’s flat, wraps his body and puts it in the boot of her car before disposing of him in the river, just like the other two. Ayoola looks on while Korede labours away, only helping to carry Femi when cajoled into action. She’s shocked, claiming self-defence, but within days she’s slipped back into her usual routine. Korede and Ayoola are the antithesis of each other: Korede is plain, practical and responsible, in line for promotion to head nurse; Ayoola spends her time loafing around, posting on social media and beguiling men with her gorgeousness. When she visits the hospital for the first time, curious to meet the man with whom her sister is clearly smitten the inevitable happens. Will Tade be Ayoola’s fourth victim? How can Korede protect them both?

Braithwaite’s debut is a caper with a sharp edge. Told in Korede’s wry voice, it’s punctuated with snapshots of the bullying, corrupt father prepared to let a colleague get his hands on his fourteen-year-old daughter in order to seal a deal. Korede’s apparently unbreakable bond with her sister is based on protectiveness and love. If men don’t come out of this very well, too easily led by beauty and quick to resort to violence, neither do women who gossip, judge each other and trade looks for money and status. Braithwaite delivers all this with a mix of almost slapstick comedy and sharp wit coupled with a page-turning pace. A smartly inventive debut, already bound for 2019’s books of the year list for me. I wonder what Braithwaite will come up with next.

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