Love is Blind, but Death is Ugly

Author: Oyinkan Braithwaite

Korede knows about blood. More importantly, she knows how to scrub it away with no trace left behind. By day, she is a nurse in a Nigerian hospital, secretly in love with the gentle doctor Tade, who shows an interest in her life despite her plain looks. In this world, she is the best. In her other world, the world where she wakes in the middle of the night and responds to her sister’s pleas to help her clean up after another murder, her skills take on a different tone.

My Sister, the Serial Killer is a story of family, loyalty, and brokenness. Ayoola, the stunning, younger sister with all the boyfriends and the seemingly happy social life, is a victim of her own past and only Korede, older, beleaguered, experienced in cleaning up her sister’s messes, can protect her. At first, it was an accident – a self defense killing in a land where women are second class citizens. But after three such happenstances? Is this really coincidence or extended bad luck? And what about the latest victim – gentle Femi with his love of poetry and his dreams? Could he really have really have tried to attack Ayoola?  After three murders, the experts say you’re officially a serial killer, and with no end in sight, Korede must protect her sister and herself while she watches Ayoola continue to collect and dispose of boyfriends. It might go on this way interminably, except Ayoola picks the one man Korede cannot bear to see lying lifeless on a cold tile floor – her longtime crush, Tade.

My Sister, the Serial Killer is a rapid story, not even quite novel length, and while it skims events quickly, something about the bluntness, the knife-edge of telling that leaves so much hinted at, helps it to grow deep roots that touch on so many things: the history of the two abused girls, sisterhood and loyalty, love and family, jealousy and worthiness, the shallow nature of attraction and beauty, and so much more. The story may be simple on the surface, and told with a brusqueness that is oddly attractive, that even strengths the dream-like narration, but a lot is happening here. Braithwaite is never overt with her commentary, but underneath the macabre atmosphere and the irony, another realm teems with meaning. In the conclusion, we get a brief flashback that provides just enough of a hint to explain Korede’s codependency and unnatural desire to back-up her murderous sister, despite the endless guilt and the bad dreams of accusing, drowned bodies. Blood is thicker than water and culpability and guilt are more powerful and lasting than both.

The twist is predictable – the one man who has been good to Korede, whom she thinks she could love, is obviously going to be Ayoola’s next victim. Korede has already been researching more about these killings. Ayoola’s actions and poses for sulty Instragram pictures, despite the current hunt for her missing boyfriend (whom we know to be deposited in a river with two others), is creating a war of morals: should Korede stop Ayoola or continue to protect her? The commentary about the shallowness of Ayoola’s paramours, who find her beauty more important than anything else is a typical moral, works well. Yes, it’s a theme that has been done before, but that doesn’t decrease the powerful nature of truth and the human desire for a beautiful delusion, however dangerous. What can I say? It’s a siren call that remains powerful, a moral that never goes out of fashion.

The only flaw in the story is really its length. The story follows a strong arc and ends in an inevitable but nonetheless satisfying way, yet the characters created here are so complex that we want to delve further. There is certainly room to do more with both girls and their back stories, without ever even touching more on the happenstance of murder and late night, panicky cover-up. As it is, it is complete, but oh, to think what more could be revealed and done! To think of the growth we could see for Korede with just a little more time.  We want to continue spending with these two sisters whom we both hate and love at the same time, to plumb the depths of the complicated and haunted psyches and experience more of the near-miss thrills, the mounting tensions, and the sociopathic numbness of happy-go-lucky Ayoola! I breathlessly wait for more from this author. With this being her debut, I anticipate great things to come

– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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