India Today - - LEISURE - —Bhavya Dore

WWhat do you do if your sis­ter is a se­rial killer? If you are Korede, the cen­tral pro­tag­o­nist in Oyinkan Braith­waite’s de­but novel, you fin­ish the job. You scrub the blood me­thod­i­cally with bleach and then you heave a dead body across a land­ing and down to your car below. My Sis­ter, the Se­rial Killer opens with a dead­pan nar­ra­tion of a crime scene some­where in an apart­ment in La­gos, Nige­ria, and is as promis­ing a start as you can get. Ay­oola, the tit­u­lar sis­ter, is a se­rial killer—of her boyfriends in par­tic­u­lar—and Korede, a nurse, is the cleanup crew. Blood might be icky, but ul­ti­mately it is thicker than wa­ter. The opener sets up the leit­mo­tif for what is to come: a sis­ter’s loy­alty in the face of re­peated mur­der.

The book con­tains bod­ies and a killer, but this is not a work of crime fic­tion. Rather, it is a kind of dram­edy where sibling ri­valry and sibling love pro­vide shape and show­downs for the novel. Ay­oola is beau­ti­ful, charm­ing, cur­va­ceous; Korede is an­gu­lar, plain, for­get­table. Ay­oola has al­ways been the favourite of both, men and her mother. So, one day when she swans into the hospi­tal Korede works at, of course she im­me­di­ately wins over Dr Tade, the ob­ject of Korede’s un­re­quited af­fec­tions. Tade ap­pears to be La­gos’ an­swer to Mr Bin­g­ley and the sis­ters wres­tle for his at­ten­tions as the novel pro­gresses. Mat­ters are fur­ther com­pli­cated when Korede de­vel­ops an un­ex­pected bond with a co­matose pa­tient.

The mid­dle sec­tion of the novel is pleas­ant enough, if

some­what me­an­der­ing, with the crimes be­com­ing an­cil­lary to the love tri­an­gle. Ay­oola and Korede are sharply drawn and their knotty re­la­tion­ship—full of psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare—is the en­gine room of the nar­ra­tive. The an­i­mat­ing con­tra­dic­tion through­out re­mains: why does Korede keep pro­tect­ing this be­guil­ing as­sas­sin to her own detri­ment, for the most part? Will she ever snap and out Ay­oola?

Nige­rian cul­ture and a rich por­trait of La­gos emerge along­side with glimpses of cor­rupt po­lice­men, jollof rice and lo­cal in­flec­tions in the di­a­logue. The novel never quite matches the sin­is­ter prom­ise of its slam­dunk open­ing but nev­er­the­less has its mo­ments. ■

MY SIS­TER, THE SE­RIAL KILLER by Oyinkan Braith­waite AT­LANTIC BOOKS `399; 240 pages

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