Read IN BED: My Sister The Serial Killer

Words & Images by Hannah-Rose Yee

“‘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.

‘Bring three.’”

The clue is in the title. My Sister The Serial Killer. What do you think this book is about? Does what it says on the tin, right?

Longlisted for the Women’s Prize for fiction (alongside former Read IN BED picks Normal People by Sally Rooney and The Pisces by Melissa Broder), Oyinkan Braithwaite’s debut novel seems to give it all away from the start. Ayoola is a serial killer. And her sister Korede always helps her clean up her mess.

If you were expecting something stomach-churning, or something in the vein of Patricia Cornwell-esque gore, you’ve come to the wrong place. For starters, Braithwaite is a slam poet, and it shows in this novella. Each chapter is a perfectly constructed vignette packing an enormous punch, each word so carefully chosen that you can imagine it being read aloud. (I bet the audiobook for this is great.)

But what’s more, this isn’t actually a book about serial killers. Well it is, but you know what I mean. It’s about family, and the ties that bind sisters together that are, quite literally stronger than blood. Ayoola’s victims are always her good-for-nothing boyfriends, which has a touch of the poetic vengeance to it, and as a nurse Korede has access to the tools necessary to help her clean up her mess.

But what’s more, this isn’t actually a book about serial killers. Well it is, but you know what I mean.

I think you can guess where this is going. What if Ayoola’s next boyfriend is the doctor from the hospital Korede works at, someone she has loved from afar for months and months. What would you choose? The sister that you grew up with or the man you love?

This is a short novel, sharp in more ways than one. It has a plot that barrels along, carrying you with it until you reach the end, breathless and ebullient. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself reading this in one desperate go. It’s a page-turner in the truest sense of the word. Dig in.