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Book Review: My Sister, The Serial Killer - Oyinkan Braithwaite

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Title: My Sister, The Serial Killer
Author: Oyinkan Braithwaite
Publisher: Atlantic Books (10 December 2018)
Genre: Crime, Thriller & Mystery
Price: Rs. 336 on Amazon
Pages: 240

Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2019, Shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2019 and the Winner of the LA Times Award for Best Crime Thriller 2019, and yet, I bought this book solely for the intriguing title. It is not very often that you come across a book where the story is given away in the title. I wanted to know more about it, hence I sat down to read this one.

Set in Lagos, Nigeria, this is the story of two sisters Korede and Ayoola. While Korede is the ugly ducking of the family, Ayoola is the beautiful swan who is adored by their mother. Korede works as a nurse in a local hospital and has a thing for the handsome doctor, Tade. One night Korede's dinner is interrupted by a phone call saying "I've done it again!" and Korede knows what she must do next. Armed with bleach, rubber gloves and nerves of steel, she sets out to meet her sister and help her dispose a body. This is the third time that Korede has had to do the clean-up job for a murder that Ayoola has committed. Ayoola says that it was self-defense all three times, but all that Korede knows is that if one kills three or more people, they are termed as a serial killer.

Ayoola is a model and is vanity personified. She's obsessed with social media and spends large amounts of time on Instagram and Snapchat. While Korede has to deal with nightmares after disposing the bodies, Ayoola lives without a care in the world. The sisters share the grave secret, but Korede is the only one affected by it. When Ayoola once visits Korede at the hospital, Tade sees her and falls in love with her almost instantly. He goes out of his way to woo her and this doesn't go down well with Korede. First, because Korede loves Tade. Second, because Korede knows what happens to Ayoola's boyfriends. What will Korede do? Will she give up love or will she give up on her sister?

First things first, this book reminded me a lot of 'Purple Hibiscus', even though both the stories are dramatically very different. It might be due to the stories being set in Africa, the writing style or the background of abuse the protagonists face in both the books. The writing is very simple and sparse and you can get though this book in one sitting. With really short chapters and a well paced narrative, this book had the markings of a great book in more ways than one. While the premise is brilliant, the ending lets you down terribly. There is a lot the author could have done with the story, but she chooses to go the conventional way which also is the predictable way.

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Korede and Ayoola as characters baffled me. While Korede is an independent woman with a secure job (she is made head-nurse through the course of the book), I don't know why she was such a push-over when it came to Ayoola. She's in the medical profession which makes her strong emotionally too and yet she succumbs to every mistake made by Ayoola. She is okay being insulted by her mother and doesn't say a thing when Tade goes out with Ayoola. She does have an occasional burst of emotion though, when she barges into Tade's room. That was the real Korede. That was needed to be shown more.

Ayoola on the other hand is a sociopath, nothing more, nothing less. She gets through boyfriends like she goes through her wardrobe, except that her clothes go back into her cupboard and her boyfriends end up dead. She doesn't even show a single sign of remorse or regret. Nor is she indebted to Korede for helping her in every single bloody endeavor of hers. In fact she doesn't even care what Korede goes through. Why does Korede still protect her? I know that blood is thicker than water, but the people involved need to be worth it too. But then of-course, that is just what I think.

Many people have called this book 'Hilarious', and for the love of God, I cannot think of a single instance of humor in this book. If there was any, it definitely did fail its purpose. While the writing is neat and crisp, it does feel too juvenile and bland. There is no mystery in the book. From the first page it is established that Ayoola is a serial killer. But why does she do it? What's going on in her mind? That's what I wanted to know. The random, hurried, back story about having an abusive father might justify why Ayoola is the way she is, but this is not established well in the book. Even when the book ended, I couldn't say what either Korede, Ayoola or Tade wanted. None of the three protagonists have a convincing behavior or trait. Nor do they have a back story to establish their existence. It just feels too random.

I'm not too sure why there is so much hype around this one, but then again I've never liked any of the award winning books. Salman Rushdie, Arvind Adiga, Arundhati Roy, Kiran Desai; I have never connected to any of their books. 'My Sister, The Serial Killer' could have been something really good, if the story was handled properly. Sadly, it remains a disappointing one time read.

Verdict: A good premise, interestingly weird characters, easy writing and a short book. If any of these things interest you, go for it.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.


  1. ah... one of those yet again hyped books. Going ti give this a skip.

  2. Seems like one of those books that had the PR and marketing create a hype working wonders while the reality should have been something else.

    1. Exactly! No clue why so much hype around this one.

  3. Oh I was so looking forward to this one with its intriguing title. But this is the second review I've read that says it isn't worth my time. Backstories are so important to make a character believable. Authors really must invest more in them.
    I'll give this a miss. Thanks for the review.

  4. Ditto, Tulika. The title is what piqued my interest, but disappointing as hell :(

  5. I was intrigued by the title and immediately was set to add this to the TBR. Then read the entire review and was totally in a face palm moment. Why do such books get hyped up so so so much!!


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