My Sister The Serial Killer : Book review

downloadWhen a crime fiction makes it to the Booker Long-list , all crime-fiction fans rejoice and need to know what is there in the book that it made to The Booker Long-list . Perhaps the judges decided to include one crime fiction every year to grab the attention of the suspense fans . Despite Christie ‘ s popularity and Holmes ‘ popularity ( which outshone even Sir Doyle ‘ s , much to his chagrin ) , I am not able to fathom how suspense  genre is sub-par to the other ‘ literary ‘ genres out there . Maybe , I will discuss it another time .

So , here’s my review of the My Sister The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaithe which is right now on the long-list for the Booker Prize .

Plot summary :

When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her younger 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-defense ” and every single time Korede had cleared the mess of a murder . It would not be soon before Ayoola ensnares yet another new victim who is bewitched by her beauty and charms .  Korede knows this only too well ,  but , as the saying goes and as she believes – ‘ Blood is thicker than water ” .

Ayoola’s deadly secret is threatened when Ayoola and the doctor ( whom Korede has been in love with for long ) start seeing each other .  Does the saying still hold good or will she choose her lover over her younger sister ? Saving one means sacrificing the other . . .

My Thoughts on the book :

At only 223 pages , with few chapters less than 100 words , it is easily a one sitting read . Korede , although being the elder sister , is a complete pushover – Ayoola says a word and Korede complies , without a word , whatever misgivings she might have  . Why ? Because Ayoola is beautiful .  Beauty and charm has the voice that plain common-sense does not have . Beauty attracts favours while Plain One will be the one doling it out just to stay in the good graces of those around her who think that Beauty is only entitled to all good things in life .

[ .. ] she [ her mother ] is far more interested in Ayoola’s marital fate than in mine . It is as though love is only for the beautiful . 

After all , she didn’t have love . What she had was a politician for a father and so she managed to bag herself a man who viewed their marriage as a means to an end .

The narrative offers us an idea about how society and law still operates in the third / second world countries :

  • How subtle intimidation by a suspect ( from one of the ‘ good ‘ families ) brought in for questioning easily works .

When I was picking my outfit , I chose a light grey skirt suit . It is solemn , feminine and a subtle remainder that the police and I are not from the same social class .

  • How plainness should always be at the service of beauty . Maybe , this is the primary theme in the narration : How beauty equates to good virtues , credibility , power , love and every good thing in the world and ugliness just the opposite .  I last read something in similar tone in Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh ( which coincidentally was in the run for the Man Booker Prize 2016 and even made to the shortlist ) .  [ I can ‘ t pick up sentences to illustrate the point without those lines divulging the trajectory of the plot . ]
  • And , most importantly , how beauty in a woman is the ultimate double edged sword . [ Previous explanation will suffice here also ]

Oyinkan captures the traits of Korede and Ayoola admirably ( specially Ayoola as a femme fatale who does not seem to have a conscience ) . Several people have told that it is more of a character study . I do not agree with this completely : even the ” character study ” is more in response to Ayoola ‘ s serial killing and her love life . Surely , there is more to a person than only their secret life and love life . . . The tone is fresh and entertaining with snarky comments from Korede on Ayoola – some even give a good laugh .The prose is not too heavy . Even beginner readers can pick up this book : so that one can brag about having read a Booker long-listed book .

Somehow , I couldn’t see the novelty in the book that got it the nomination to the Booker long – list , or the other awards for that matter . It just makes for an interesting read about two conniving females ‘ lives dodging suspicion and what follows it , considering that one is a remorseless serial killer – an intriguing premise which the author has not explored it completely .

Maybe all the hype is due to the novelty of the premise and the settings . Even the non-native English speakers have got used to the suburban / city settings in the UK or US and the cultural references from the west . For a change , this book is set in Lagos with references to the LASTMA police force , the rampant corruption in the government establishments , shoddy investigative procedures  and how social standing plays a major role in actually getting the police force to initiate an investigation in the first place .

It might seem ironic that I started this post with a rant about suspense / crime – fiction being looked down upon and then my not so favorable review about a suspense  book that has made it to the Booker long-list . But this is yet another brazenly honest review .

Rating : 3 . 5 / 5 .

P . S : Don ‘ t be fooled by Paula Hawkins ‘ comment about the book being  ‘ Feverishly hot ‘ . It was a decent read – nothing more than that . Read it if you are looking to cross off atleast one book from the long list . I think there are better books for the seasoned readers to pick out from the long list . . .

As for this book , you can pick it up when the prices come down . I simply see the nomination as a tokenism move  and nothing else . Atleast couldn’t they have picked a better suspense book ?

If you are interested about character – study novels , check out Eileen review here . Can ‘t recommend Eileen enough . . .

Until the next review then . . .



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