Book Review: MY SISTER, THE SERIAL KILLER by Oyinkan Braithwaite

A close, complex character study disguised as a thriller. Swift and devastating. Five stars.

“As smart and murderous as Killing Eve, My Sister, the Serial Killer is a blackly comic novel about how blood is thicker – and more difficult to get out of the carpet – than water…”

Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in “self-defence” and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first.

Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating a doctor at the hospital where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other… 

Publisher synopsis via Goodreads

This’ll be a short review for a short book.

If you’re looking for gore, you won’t find much here. This isn’t about murdering; it’s about what it’s like to be this particular character in this particular time and place and family.

I was, of course, on the edge of my seat about what terrible thing Ayoola might do next, but the real suspense in this story is in the tense, complex relationships. What is it about the sisters’ relationship that drives Korde to clean up for her sister like that? How far does that bond go?

Reading the first scene, I thought I understood what kind of character Korde would be. I recognized the type. After a few chapters, however, it became clear that there’s a lot more to her than simply the meticulous, bitter older sister. The novel slowly rolled out enough information for me to understand the envoronment that created this conflicted young woman. Quick flashbacks and tiny everyday moments make a window into the realities of her fascinating family dynamics and her life in Nigeria at this moment in time. It’s a great illustration of that “the universal is found in the specific” adage. Even though the story is stylized and heightened and almost campy at times, it keeps Korde very grounded and so, so real.

Suspenseful and unsettling, a twist of social satire… this was the very definition of *chef’s kiss.*

I can’t close without a word about the cover. It is so odd and unsettling and perfect.

I saw on Goodreads that the book was originally called Thicker Than Water, which is just… yum. The change was probably the right call, but Thicker Than Water might make a great title for a screen adaption. Amazon, HBO… someone get on that!

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