"The wittiest and most fun murder party you've ever been invited to."--MARIE CLAIRE
WINNER OF THE LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE FOR MYSTERY/THRILLER
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2019 WOMEN'S PRIZE
A short, darkly funny, hand grenade of a novel about a Nigerian woman whose younger sister has a very inconvenient habit of killing her boyfriends
"Femi makes three, you know. Three and they label you a serial killer."
Korede is bitter. How could she not be? Her sister, Ayoola, is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola's third boyfriend in a row is dead.
Korede's practicality is the sisters' saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood, the trunk of her car is big enough for a body, and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures of her dinner to Instagram when she should be mourning her "missing" boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit.
Korede has long been in love with a kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where she works. She dreams of the day when he will realize that she's exactly what he needs. But when he asks Korede for Ayoola's phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and how far she's willing to go to protect her.
Sharp as nails and full of deadpan wit, Oyinkan Braithwaite's deliciously deadly debut is as fun as it is frightening.
|Publisher:||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||6 MB|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Ayoola summons me with these words—Korede, I killed him.
I had hoped I would never hear those words again.
I bet you didn’t know that bleach masks the smell of blood. Most people use bleach indiscriminately, assuming it is a catchall product, never taking the time to read the list of ingredients on the back, never taking the time to return to the recently wiped surface to take a closer look. Bleach will disinfect, but it’s not great for cleaning residue, so I use it only after I have first scrubbed the bathroom of all traces of life, and death.
It is clear that the room we are in has been remodeled recently. It has that never-been-used look, especially now that I’ve spent close to three hours cleaning up. The hardest part was getting to the blood that had seeped in between the shower and the caulking. It’s an easy part to forget.
There’s nothing placed on any of the surfaces; his shower gel, toothbrush and toothpaste are all stored in the cabinet above the sink. Then there’s the shower mat—a black smiley face on a yellow rectangle in an otherwise white room.
Ayoola is perched on the toilet seat, her knees raised and her arms wrapped around them. The blood on her dress has dried and there is no risk that it will drip on the white, now glossy floors. Her dreadlocks are piled atop her head, so they don’t sweep the ground. She keeps looking up at me with her big brown eyes, afraid that I am angry, that I will soon get off my hands and knees to lecture her.
I am not angry. If I am anything, I am tired. The sweat from my brow drips onto the floor and I use the blue sponge to wipe it away.
I was about to eat when she called me. I had laid everything out on the tray in preparation—the fork was to the left of the plate, the knife to the right. I folded the napkin into the shape of a crown and placed it at the center of the plate. The movie was paused at the beginning credits and the oven timer had just rung, when my phone began to vibrate violently on my table.
By the time I get home, the food will be cold.
I stand up and rinse the gloves in the sink, but I don’t remove them. Ayoola is looking at my reflection in the mirror.
“We need to move the body,” I tell her.
“Are you angry at me?”
Perhaps a normal person would be angry, but what I feel now is a pressing need to dispose of the body. When I got here, we carried him to the boot of my car, so that I was free to scrub and mop without having to countenance his cold stare.
“Get your bag,” I reply.
We return to the car and he is still in the boot, waiting for us.
The third mainland bridge gets little to no traffic at this time of night, and since there are no lamplights, it’s almost pitch black, but if you look beyond the bridge you can see the lights of the city. We take him to where we took the last one—over the bridge and into the water. At least he won’t be lonely.
Some of the blood has seeped into the lining of the boot. Ayoola offers to clean it, out of guilt, but I take my homemade mixture of one spoon of ammonia to two cups of water from her and pour it over the stain. I don’t know whether or not they have the tech for a thorough crime scene investigation in Lagos, but Ayoola could never clean up as efficiently as I can.
“Who was he?”
I scribble the name down. We are in my bedroom. Ayoola is sitting cross-legged on my sofa, her head resting on the back of the cushion. While she took a bath, I set the dress she had been wearing on fire. Now she wears a rose-colored T‑shirt and smells of baby powder.
“And his surname?”
She frowns, pressing her lips together, and then she shakes her head, as though trying to shake the name back into the forefront of her brain. It doesn’t come. She shrugs. I should have taken his wallet.
I close the notebook. It is small, smaller than the palm of my hand. I watched a TEDx video once where the man said that carrying around a notebook and penning one happy moment each day had changed his life. That is why I bought the notebook. On the first page, I wrote, I saw a white owl through my bedroom window. The notebook has been mostly empty since.
“It’s not my fault, you know.” But I don’t know. I don’t know what she is referring to. Does she mean the inability to recall his surname? Or his death?
“Tell me what happened.”
Femi wrote her a poem.
(She can remember the poem, but she cannot remember his last name.)
I dare you to find a flaw
in her beauty;
or to bring forth a woman
who can stand beside
her without wilting.
And he gave it to her written on a piece of paper, folded twice, reminiscent of our secondary school days, when kids would pass love notes to one another in the back row of classrooms. She was moved by all this (but then Ayoola is always moved by the worship of her merits) and so she agreed to be his woman.
On their one-month anniversary, she stabbed him in the bathroom of his apartment. She didn’t mean to, of course. He was angry, screaming at her, his onion-stained breath hot against her face.
(But why was she carrying the knife?)
The knife was for her protection. You never knew with men, they wanted what they wanted when they wanted it. She didn’t mean to kill him, she wanted to warn him off, but he wasn’t scared of her weapon. He was over six feet tall and she must have looked like a doll to him, with her small frame, long eyelashes and rosy, full lips.
(Her description, not mine.)
She killed him on the first strike, a jab straight to the heart. But then she stabbed him twice more to be sure. He sank to the floor. She could hear her own breathing and nothing else.
Have you heard this one before? Two girls walk into a room. The room is in a flat. The flat is on the third floor. In the room is the dead body of an adult male. How do they get the body to the ground floor without being seen?
First, they gather supplies.
“How many bedsheets do we need?”
“How many does he have?” Ayoola ran out of the bathroom and returned armed with the information that there were five sheets in his laundry cupboard. I bit my lip. We needed a lot, but I was afraid his family might notice if the only sheet he had was the one laid on his bed. For the average male, this wouldn’t be all that peculiar—but this man was meticulous. His bookshelf was arranged alphabetically by author. His bathroom was stocked with the full range of cleaning supplies; he even bought the same brand of disinfectant as I did. And his kitchen shone. Ayoola seemed out of place here—a blight in an otherwise pure existence.
Second, they clean up the blood.
I soaked up the blood with a towel and wrung it out in the sink. I repeated the motions until the floor was dry. Ayoola hovered, leaning on one foot and then the other. I ignored her impatience. It takes a whole lot longer to dispose of a body than to dispose of a soul, especially if you don’t want to leave any evidence of foul play. But my eyes kept darting to the slumped corpse, propped up against the wall. I wouldn’t be able to do a thorough job until his body was elsewhere.
Third, they turn him into a mummy.
We laid the sheets out on the now dry floor and she rolled him onto them. I didn’t want to touch him. I could make out his sculpted body beneath his white tee. He looked like a man who could survive a couple of flesh wounds, but then so had Achilles and Caesar. It was a shame to think that death would whittle away at his broad shoulders and concave abs, until he was nothing more than bone. When I first walked in I had checked his pulse thrice, and then thrice more. He could have been sleeping, he looked so peaceful. His head was bent low, his back curved against the wall, his legs askew.
Ayoola huffed and puffed as she pushed his body onto the sheets. She wiped the sweat off her brow and left a trace of blood there. She tucked one side of a sheet over him, hiding him from view. Then I helped her roll him and wrap him firmly within the sheets. We stood and looked at him.
“What now?” she asked.
Fourth, they move the body.
We could have used the stairs, but I imagined us carrying what was clearly a crudely swaddled body and meeting someone on our way. I made up a couple of possible explanations—
“We are playing a prank on my brother. He is a deep sleeper and we are moving his sleeping body elsewhere.”
“No, no, it’s not a real man, what do you take us for? It’s a mannequin.”
“No, ma, it is just a sack of potatoes.”
I pictured the eyes of my make-believe witness widening in fear, as he or she ran to safety. No, the stairs were out of the question.
“We need to take the lift.”
Ayoola opened her mouth to ask a question and then she shook her head and closed it again. She had done her bit, the rest she left to me. We lifted him. I should have used my knees and not my back. I felt something crack and dropped my end of the body with a thud. My sister rolled her eyes. I took his feet again, and we carried him to the doorway.
Ayoola darted to the lift, pressed the button, ran back to us and lifted Femi’s shoulders once more. I peeked out of the apartment and confirmed that the landing was still clear. I was tempted to pray, to beg that no door be opened as we journeyed from door to lift, but I am fairly certain that those are exactly the types of prayers He doesn’t answer. So I chose instead to rely on luck and speed. We silently shuffled across the stone floor. The lift dinged just in time and opened its mouth for us. We stayed to one side while I confirmed that the lift was empty, and then we heaved him in, bundling him into the corner, away from immediate view.
“Please hold the lift!” cried a voice. From the corner of my eye, I saw Ayoola about to press the button, the one that stops the lift from closing its doors. I slapped her hand away and jabbed the ground button repeatedly. As the lift doors slid shut, I caught a glimpse of a young mother’s disappointed face. I felt a little guilty—she had a baby in one arm and bags in the other—but I did not feel guilty enough to risk incarceration. Besides, what good could she be up to moving around at that hour, with a child in tow?
“What is wrong with you?” I hissed at Ayoola, even though I knew her movement had been instinctive, possibly the same impulsiveness that caused her to drive knife into flesh.
“My bad,” was her only response. I swallowed the words that threatened to spill out of my mouth. This was not the time.
On the ground floor, I left Ayoola to guard the body and hold the lift. If anyone was coming toward her, she was to shut the doors and go to the top floor. If someone attempted to call it from another floor, she was to hold the lift doors. I ran to get my car and drove it to the back door of the apartment building, where we fetched the body from the lift. My heart only stopped hammering in my chest when we shut the boot.
Fifth, they bleach.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Quick read, and very entertaining!
Unusual story, I grappled with the outcome, but, it fits.... The format is unusual, it is also " fitting".
Oyinkan Braithwaite has written one of the most twisted, delightful books I've read in a long time. There's no point in mincing words- Korede's sister is a serial killer. Two of Ayoola's previous boyfriends have died while with her, and when her most recent boyfriend turns up dead with a knife wound in his chest, Korede is summoned once again to clean up her sister's mess. My Sister, the Serial Killer hooks you from the first page and refuses to let go. I think I pried myself away only twice, so I could sleep. The relationships in this book were truly fascinating and I was stuck by how real each character felt- their choices made me cringe, laugh, and shudder as I read on. This is both a brilliant thriller and a witty take on how far one will go in the name of loyalty.
“I wonder what the chances are that the death of a person in the company of a serial killer would come about by chance.” My Sister, the Serial Killer is a fast-paced, cutting, impactful little novel that comes in and gets out fast, but not without leaving its mark. I was really impressed with how Oyinkan was able to create such vivid characters and such a compelling story in so few words. You’ll hear this book called a thriller, but it’s not quite. It reads quickly and involves murder, sure, and there’s definitely a measure of suspense (will she / won’t she kill again?), but the writing is a lot more matter-of-fact, a lot more cutting, than you’d expect from that description. The narrator of the book is Korede, the older sister to Ayoola, a stunning, narcissistic young woman who has a nasty habit of killing her boyfriends. She calls Korede to help her clean up afterward, always claiming some sort of self-defense or innocence, confident that the world will simply bend to her will and charm (which it actually does). Korede, as her sister, is loyal to a fault, but she’s also caught in a can’t-win sort of situation. But then Ayoola starts dating the guy Korede has pined after for months, and it begins to fracture a bit. Woven throughout the book are flashbacks to the days before their father died, years ago. He was abusive and domineering — and then he died. The book is more about sisterhood than murder, family and duty than guilt or innocence. It’s about the privilege afforded to those who are beautiful and charming, and about the conflicts they leave in their wake. It took me only three hours to read this book. The paperback is 225 pages with wide margins and chapter breaks every few pages. Also, she wrote it in only a few weeks?? And originally titled it Thicker than Water?? And wasn’t going to put it up for publication at all, except her agent happened to read it?? And now it was longlisted for the Women’s Prize AND the Booker Prize??? Like wow. I’m glad I read it after having seen Oyinkan speak (I attended the paperback launch), because I was able to hear her reading it in my mind and keep everything she’d said about it in the back of my head.
I am still reeling from the ending. It really made my head spin. This is a quick read. I finished it in a couple of hours. This reminded me so much of Dexter, but imagine if Debra helped him clean up his mess? This is the power of sisterhood between two sisters that share a traumatizing past together. While the older sister is left to protect her younger sister, you always have to ask why is she helping her sister? Her sister is a serial killer. She's irrational and makes up the story as if she is the victim, when in fact she actually sees an alternate reality. She thinks she's being attacked, so she attacks back...but really, she's the one who initiated the attack using her father's knife. That knife has its own significance in this story. Korede has a crush on a doctor at the hospital where she works. When Ayoola shows up at her job, Dr. Tade takes one look at her, and like all the other men, falls in love with her. Korede tries to thwart Tade from dating her sister, but he is so in love with Ayoola, he thinks Korede is just jealous. When in fact, she just doesn't want her sister to kill him. He is a good doctor, after all. Ayoola is a bombshell. Every man that lays eyes on her falls in love with her...for her looks. That is why she kills them all. They are not in love with her for herself or who she is inside. They are in love with the way she looks. But Korede...what's her story? Ends up sisterhood is a much stronger bond than saving some guy she had a crush on. This may be a quick read, but damn if it's not mindblowing at the end. I hope they turn this into a movie. Lupita would make an excellent Korede.
This was an unusual book for me. The writing style, the flow, and the short chapters were quite a change for me, but I LOVED it! I really enjoyed it and the pages turned pretty quick. I’d love to read more by this author.
Seems absurd initially, too absurd. Then you go with it and it's a delightful (haha), quirky and quick. A fun read.
I loved this book! Korede's sister Ayoola has just killed her boyfriend and called Korede to help her clean up the scene of the crime and get rid of the body. But this isn't the first time this has happened and it won't be the last, because Ayoola is a serial killer. She uses self-defense as her excuse, claiming that her boyfriends are hitting her. But Korede is getting tired of cleaning up after her sister. And then her sister steals the doctor that Korede is in love with. How long will Korede put up with her sister's antics? I absolutely loved the ending of My Sister, the Serial Killer!
thought I might try a change of pace and something new for me with this FICTIONAL thriller titled, My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. Set in Lagos, Nigeria... Ayoola keeps knocking off boyfriends and calling her sister Korede in the night for help. It’s totally getting out of hand and becoming a real problem. Korede is a great problem solver in this instance, because of her job working in a hospital cleaning, she knows how to clean up blood great. And she’s also ace at moving bodies. They make a wonderful team but this has got to stop. Ayoola is a menace to the safety of the men of Nigeria. Despite being the older sister and feeling responsible for her, Korede is worried sick about the situation and is afraid they will both end up in prison. "Femi makes three you know. Three and they label you a serial killer." Actually, it’s since been changed to only two killings, but I don’t think many outside the authorities would know that. This was a good crime thriller, fast paced and didn’t take a long time to read. I quite enjoyed it.
Wow. That was quite a ride. I really enjoyed this book, but at the same time, I really wanted to punch Ayoola in the face (she's the serial killer), and smack some sense into Korede (the enabling sister). Korede was likeable, and the embodiment of "blood is thicker than water." I felt bad for her- I mean, she did get herself into it by helping her sister clean up her "problems," but at the same time, she's stuck with doing it, or she'll go down too. Ayoola is a psychopath, is selfish, conceited, and I can't think of one redeeming thing about her, but she's Korede's little sister, and Korede feels she must protect Ayoola no matter what. Throughout the book, we get flashbacks to the sisters' abusive childhood, and that kind of explains what happens. Doesn't excuse it, but you can see what sparked it. The writing is tight and concise, the humor is deadpan and dark, and the food descriptions made me really hungry- I've never had Nigerian food, but google is my friend, and I'm sure as hell gonna try making some!
I wasn't quite sure what to expect with "My Sister, the Serial Killer" by Oyinkan Braithwaite but once I'd started to flick through it and read a couple of pages I was hooked and before I knew it, I was a third of the way through! Thoroughly modern and set in Lagos, Nigeria, this is a quick, enjoyable read that is dark, humorous and shows the bond between two sisters that stays strong no matter what....including murder. Every man falls in love with young and gorgeous Ayoola, the minute they set eyes on her. Fatally for them though, when she has grown bored of them she kills them and then calls her sister Korede to help clean up the mess. Crazy right? But with her sister a neat freak and a hospital nurse who better to call on to keep her secrets? This mad but exciting and thoroughly enjoyable read is addictive and has characters you can't help but endear to, both sisters have unusual qualities and the story was a pleasure to read. A completely original and unique premise that offers the reader a touch of humour to an otherwise dark and twisted tale, you can't help smiling at many of the quirky chapters and is guaranteed to have you turning the pages quicker than you can read them. If you're into intelligent, complicated and descriptive literary novels this won't be for you - this story is easy to follow with a simple storyline that's fast, enjoyable and leaves you feeling so glad that you've found such a fun read. 4.5 rounded up to 5 stars
This is quite a startling book in many ways, it is less about the actual act of murder but how your relationships, career and life change when you allow a murderer in to your life. In Korede's case she does not allow a murderer in to her life, Ayoolah is thrust in to her life by nature and nurture makes her in to a harsher copy of their father. The familial bond is strong and when Ayoolah first commits murder Korede protects her and helps destroy the evidence, perhaps this is because she believes the self defence explanation her sister gives, maybe it goes deeper than that. I loved the juxtaposition between Korede's career as a nurse in a large hospital - a career where she is sworn to protect and help people and then her home life of second to her beautiful sister and protector of her as well as her inferior. There is also a wonderful glimpse in to the culture of traditional Lagos - where appearances always seem set to deceive as everyone puts their bast face forward to the world. This is perhaps best demonstrated by the memorial for their dead father, neither the sisters or their mother really want to be there but they don their matching family dress and go through with it all, for respectability's sake. From the early chapters you could be forgiven for thinking this was going to be a police procedural with the sister's facing the full might of the law. This is definitely not what you get, what you get is actually a touching story of family. A very disfunctional father whose patriarch has skewed the world so far that it has irrevocably altered his daughter's mores. Narrated by Korede we only ever really see her view of the circumstances surrounding each event but it is a full and unflinching vision. A great first novel that is pretty compulsive reading. THIS IS AN HONEST AND UNBIASED REVIEW OF A FREE COPY OF THE BOOK RECEIVED VIA THE PIGEONHOLE.
Some readers will be attracted to My Sister the Serial Killer due to its captivating cover, others will automatically be drawn in by the compelling words “serial killer” in the title. Still others will be curious about a book written by a new author who has received many positive reviews. Regardless, all those who pick up Oyinkan Braithwaite’s short novel will be richly rewarded for the experience. Set in Lagos, Nigeria this book is less of a true thriller and more of a literary gem with an edge. The author tells a tale about women’s roles and the familial responsibilities assigned to them by cultural expectations and external assessments of worth. Two sides of one coin, Korede and Ayoola are sisters that complement each other as archetypes. Korede, a nurse, is the older sister-plain and serious. She is the prototypical protector and responsible one of the two. Ayoola is the carefree beauty who has come to expect all the attention and privilege that her looks have always engendered. The book’s short chapters flash back and forth in time, exploring the women’s troubled upbringing and the genesis of their predictably symbiotic relationship. A bit more unusual is the development that Ayoola has recently been killing off her suitors, and Korede has been helping to clean and cover up the mess. Their loyalty is tested, however, when Korede’s secret object of affection becomes ensnared by her sister’s charms. My Sister the Serial Killer depicts women as strong and resourceful despite being confined by a patriarchal society that idolizes, abuses or ignores them. Braithwaite explores these complex themes in a novel that is refreshingly unique, deeply funny and insightful. Hopefully, she will continue to surprise readers with future works to enjoy and contemplate.
“Ayoola summons me with these words - Korede, I killed him. I had hoped I would never hear those words again.” I mean, really. How can you not love this book?? That quote and the title pretty much let you know what this one is about, however, I still did not expect anything of what I just read. This was simply brilliant, and I did not want it to end. As the oldest child, I sympathized with Korede in that the younger siblings can oftentimes do no wrong in the parents’ eyes, BUT this was a bit extreme and obviously created some bad behaviors in both sisters to say the least - both in the killing and the cleaning up of messes. Yikes. The plot was certainly unique - I loved the short chapters and writing style, and it was a legit page turner. The ending was phenomenal too, a book like this just should not have a bow put on the end, and this did not disappoint. 5 stars, no question, this was stunning. You must read this one, hands down. Thanks to NetGalley for an electronic ARC of this book. All opinions above are my own.
4 Killer Stars Review by Lisa Late Night Reviewer Up All Night w/ Books Blog Well, that was one hell of a story. Murder/murders, sister drama, work drama, family drama with a side of deadpan puns, this is the book for you. My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite is one that I keep thinking...wow I just read that. My only hang up is the ending, I felt it left me hanging and wanting to ask "that's it? I want to know more". Korede has taken on the role of protector for her little sister, Ayoola. Ayoola is the one that has it "all", the looks, the lightness about her and men dropping at her feet....literally. Ayoola is also on the "insane" spectrum with having a problem of killing her boyfriends. Korede who is also a nurse in a hospital has no life, working and cleaning up her sister's messes. When Ayoola shows up at Korede job things go from just okay to worse. Can Korede keep Ayoola from killing someone she cares about? I like how the author laid this story out. Jumping right into a murder scene and then the going back and forth from the past to present. The story flowed effortlessly and moved right along. A thriller, murder story at its best.
In My Sister, the Serial Killer, Korede is a good sister, who cleans up her younger sister Ayoola’s messes, literally. With bleach. Ayoola, though beautiful, has man problems—she keeps killing them. As the book begins, Ayoola has just killed her third boyfriend. After googling the definition of serial killer, Korede realizes it fits her sister. When Korede catches Ayoola trying to hit on Dr. Tade at Korede’s work, Korede tries to stop her involvement. None of Ayoola’s relationships end well for the man and Korede has her eye on Tade for herself. When Ayoola takes Korede’s words as a challenge, the fun begins. If you like black humor set in exotic Lagos Nigeria, you will love My Sister, the Serial Killer as much as I do. It is hard not to sympathize with poor plain Korede’s plight. Her sister is obviously just using her and all her boyfriends. It is a fun read from a completely new perspective. 4 stars! Thanks to Doubleday Books and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
My Sister, the Serial Killer, is about exactly what the title implies. Korede is a hard-working and meticulous hospital nurse who happens to get the occasional phone call from her younger sister, Ayoola, begging for help cleaning up the body of a man she had been dating, up until Ayoola killed him. Told in straightforward prose and short chapters, this novel is a fast and fun read (despite the stakes), but don't let that fool you. The character development is excellent; as an older sister myself, I wholly related to Korede, but I felt as though I knew each character. There are several unforgettable moments as Korede tries desperately to keep her private and professional life separate, particularly to protect the handsome doctor that will be no match for her beautiful, yet deadly, little sister. I also appreciated Braithwaite's exploration of the sisters' history, which attempts to explain why Ayoola is a murderer. The author explores themes of family, particularly sisterhood, and how far a person will go to protect their family, even at the cost of other's lives. She also presents an interesting criticism in the nature of men, particularly what they look for in terms of a partner. My only criticism is that the end felt a little flat; the events of the book and Korede's internal dialogue seem to be heading in a different direction than the author took. Overall, a solid 4 star read. Thank you Netgalley and Doubleday for my free review copy. All opinions are my own.