-Narrow-minded perspectives still tie women’s success to achieving a ‘good marriage’
-Intelligent men will chase after trophy women regardless of their untenable flaws
The story of two siblings is told in macabre fashion in a comedic crime novel called My Sister, the Serial Killer by Nigerian author Oyinkan Braithwaite. Braithwaite plunges us into this thrilling story with the opening line, “…Korede, I killed him.”
Korede is a highly respected senior nurse at a hospital in Lagos, Nigeria. She is tall, dark-skinned, not particularly beautiful but a great cook and obsessed with cleanliness. She is also attracted to her male colleague, the handsome Dr Tade.
Her sister Ayoola took it all when it comes to looks, with her curvaceous figure and creamy caramel skin that leaves men lusting in her wake. She is flighty, runs a fashion business and has developed a knack for killing her lovers by stabbing them to death with a dagger that belonged to their late father.
From childhood, Korede has been the protective older sister, taking the blame for Ayoola’s misdeeds. It is Korede who scrubs the blood and disposes the body of Ayoola’s latest victim, while everybody speculates about Femi’s disappearance.
After a brief period of mourning, capricious Ayoola is back to her usual self, and another suitor soon falls to her fatal seduction. To pour salt into the wound, Ayoola starts dating Dr Tade, though she is not really attracted to him. “All he wants is a pretty face,” she tells Korede. “That’s all they ever want.” It is part of the game she plays with men, linked to their troubled youth and the certainty that Korede will keep her deadly secrets.
Through flashbacks, we learn about their father, an authoritarian man, unfaithful husband and unscrupulous businessman. Since his death, declining family circumstances mean Korede and Ayoola’s mother is constantly seeking potential suitors for her daughters.
Filled with guilt and heartache, Korede pours out her troubles to Muhtar, an older male patient who has been in a coma for months. Then, like a miracle, Muhtar wakes up one day and soon afterwards reveals to Korede that he recalls the things she said to him.
As the story moves to an intriguing climax, it remains to be seen whether Korede take the advice of the sage Muhtar to break free of her sociopathic sister, or if blood is stronger than the most gruesome of crimes.
This is a fast-paced tale that never gets uncomfortably gruesome or deeply reflective. It is a lean book, with one-word chapter headings and some chapters literally paragraphs long. Darkly humorous language, memorable characters and shenanigans among the hospital staff bring comic relief to the growing tension.
Braithwaite was inspired to write the story after reading about female black widow spiders that sometimes kill and eat the males after mating. This debut novel evaluates societal ills and family relationships presented in a murder and love story.
Narrow-minded perspectives still tie women’s success to achieving a ‘good marriage’, intelligent men will chase after trophy women regardless of their untenable flaws, while the legacy of a violent father pushes his children into a troublesome relationship.