For months I saw Instagram posts of the book My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite featured alongside a mop bucket or a pair of yellow rubber cleaning gloves. The title was intriguing, the posts were fascinating, but since I’m always working my way through an ever-growing list of books, it took me a while to get my copy from Hello Hello Books in Rockland, ME. Even then, it took me a few months to get around to the actual reading. Once I did, I drove straight through it in one night.
The premise is simple but fascinating. The story focuses on two adult sisters and their mother. The older sister Korede must look after and protect her beautiful, less responsible, younger sister Ayoola. Their roles in the family are unchanged since childhood. Korede continues to play her part even as she realizes Ayoola is a serial killer. I’m not giving away any plot twists here; it’s right there in the title.
Braithwaite had several possible directions she might have taken this book. Korede could have been visiting her sister in jail, she could have figured it out at the end of the book as she’s putting the clues together, or other more traditional routes, and I’m thrilled she didn’t follow any of those. I’m also impressed that Braithwaite didn’t take what I think of as the standard narrator roles in books like this by telling it from the killer or a detective perspective or even using third person. She places us first person present tense with Korede using direct address. “I bet you didn’t know that bleach masks the smell of blood.”
During the day, Korede is a conscientious worker at a hospital, and by night she’s covering up her sister murders. She’s efficient and thorough. If I were a killer, I’d want her on my team. In fact, I’m team Korede all day long. She has all these cleaning tricks and disposal methods. Her mind is always thinking ahead, unlike Ayoola. Braithwaite captures the roles and experience of siblings perfectly, especially in a single-parent family.
Along with the interesting take on a serial killer story, the book is a quick read and has terrific dark humor. Each chapter is short and just enough. Much like a bag of extra small Snickers at a movie that you can’t stop popping in your mouth, the chapters are so bite-size, you’re compelled to turn one more page.
By the end of the book, I began to wonder who’s really the bad guy in a situation like this, the killer, the one who covers it up, or the mother who insists Korede be the protector. Hmmmmmm…
If you don’t like books with murder or strong women, you won’t like this book. By the way, read that with a flippant tone and full of judgment for anyone who doesn’t like strong female characters. Other than that, read away. My Sister, the Serial Killer is Braithwaite’s debut novel. I can’t wait to see what the Nigerian author gives us next.