A woman on a killing spree gets some help from en­abling sis­ter

Miami Herald (Sunday) - - Books - BY JON MICHAUD The Washington Post


The ti­tle of Oyinkan Braith­waite’s de­but novel, “My Sis­ter, the Se­rial Killer,” is si­mul­ta­ne­ously ac­cu­rate and mis­lead­ing. The book is in­deed about a se­rial killer and her sib­ling, but it is not at all the pulpy slasher story you might ex­pect. In­stead, it is a play­ful yet af­fect­ing ex­am­i­na­tion of sib­ling ri­valry, the legacy of abuse and the shal­low sex­ism of Nige­ria’s pa­tri­ar­chal so­ci­ety.

Our nar­ra­tor, Korede, is a nurse at a hos­pi­tal in La­gos. She is homely, du­ti­ful and lonely. She car­ries a torch for a doc­tor named Tade, but her feel­ings are not re­cip­ro­cated. Korede’s sole con­fi­dant is a man in a coma, to whom she un­bur­dens her­self like a pa­tient to a shrink. Most of those con­fi­dences have to do with Korede’s younger sis­ter, the beau­ti­ful but reck­less Ay­oola, who has an un­for­tu­nate habit of killing her boyfriends.

At the open­ing of the novel, Ay­oola has just mur­dered her third vic­tim, the un­sus­pect­ing Femi, with a knife. “The knife was for her pro­tec­tion,” we’re told. She car­ries it in her purse “the way other women carry tam­pons.”

Ay­oola sum­mons Korede, who races over to clean up the crime scene and dis­pose of the body. Korede is both en­abler and ac­com­plice to her sis­ter’s homi­ci­dal habit and is seem­ingly pow­er­less to stop it.

There are com­pli­ca­tions. The po­lice dis­cover a bloody nap­kin at Femi’s home; a wit­ness comes for­ward. Then Korede’s doc­tor crush, Tade, meets Ay­oola and falls un­der her spell. Will he be­come her next vic­tim? Fi­nally, the coma pa­tient wakes up and tells Korede that he re­mem­bers ev­ery­thing. What is she to do?

Braith­waite gen­er­ates a lot of hu­mor out of the dis­par­ity be­tween Korede’s and Ay­oola’s ap­pear­ances: Ay­oola has “a fig­ure eight — like a Coca-Cola bot­tle” and Korede has “a fig­ure one — like a stick.” Ay­oola gets flow­ers and va­ca­tion in­vi­ta­tions from wealthy men while Korede is told, “You’re go­ing to make some­one an awe­some wife.” But the novel wants to do more than dra­ma­tize the priv­i­lege en­joyed by Ay­oola be­cause of her looks.

What­ever re­sent­ment Korede feels to­ward her sis­ter, there is a deep and en­dur­ing bond be­tween them. They live with their wid­owed mother in a man­sion built by their abu­sive, phi­lan­der­ing fa­ther. The reader comes to see that his legacy of vi­o­lence and be­trayal is at the root of Ay­oola’s mur­der­ous spree. (It is the fa­ther’s knife that Ay­oola car­ries in her purse.)

As the novel moves to­ward its twisty, sat­is­fy­ing de­noue­ment, we learn that Korede can be just as ruth­less as her sis­ter. In its darkly comic de­pic­tion of two women team­ing up against the pow­er­ful, abu­sive men in their lives, “My Sis­ter the Se­rial Killer” feels like an ideal book for the present mo­ment.


“The Spy and the Traitor” lives up to its sub­ti­tle, not least be­cause Ben Macin­tyre has no equal in por­tray­ing the real-life, chimeri­cal world of dou­ble agents. He has found gold in Oleg Gordievsky, a high­rank­ing KBG of­fi­cer who passed Soviet se­crets to Bri­tain’s MI6 for more than a decade. Sick­ened by the Soviet in­va­sion of Cze­choslo­vakia in 1968, Gordievsky re­solved to un­der­mine the op­pres­sive regime and be­gan to re­lay high-grade in­for­ma­tion to the Bri­tish, some of which may, in Macin­tyre’s telling, have pre­vented a Third World war. Ex­po­sure came when the CIA, miffed that MI6 would not share the spy’s iden­tity, be­gan their own in­ves­ti­ga­tions with the re­sult that Gordievsky, just ap­pointed KGB Bu­reau Chief in London, was outed as a pos­si­ble spy by CIA func­tionary and Soviet mole, Aldrich Ames. Called back to Moscow and in­ter­ro­gated, Gordievsky knew he would be ar­rested, tor­tured and ex­e­cuted. Thus be­gan his es­cape, a white-knuckle af­fair that is al­most un­bear­ably sus­pense­ful. John Lee, whose voice and dra­matic pac­ing are par­tic­u­larly suited to tales of der­ring-do, nar­rates the book with his usual panache. (Ran­dom House Au­dio, Unabridged, 13 1/4 hours)


The ear­li­est work by V.S. Naipaul, who died in Au­gust, is fi­nally avail­able as an au­dio­book. “Miguel Street” is a col­lec­tion of linked sto­ries set on a street in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad dur­ing the 1940s. Told from the point of view of a young neigh­bor­hood boy, the sto­ries are a gos­sipy, in­creas­ingly poignant chron­i­cle of the daily do­ings, small dra­mas and mis­for­tunes of sev­eral re­cur­ring, highly idio­syn­cratic char­ac­ters. Among them are Bog­art, a man who has adopted the mien of that popular ac­tor; Ed­does, rarely seen with­out a fash­ion­able tooth­brush in his mouth; Laura, proud of hav­ing eight chil­dren by seven fa­thers; Mor­gan who as­pires to make mil­lions sell­ing fire­works to “the King of Eng­land and the King of Amer­ica;” B. Wordsworth, a poet, whose


‘My Sis­ter, the Se­rial Killer.’

Ran­dom House Au­dio

‘The Spy and the Traitor: The Great Es­pi­onage Story of the Cold War.’

Ran­dom House Au­dio

‘The Si­lence of the Girls.’

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