Is blood thicker than water? That’s the key question in Oyinkan Brathwaite’s fizzing story of sex, lies and sisterhood. It’s a timeless, almost Shakespearian dilemma for Korede, who is horribly compromised by her younger, impossibly beautiful sister Ayoola.
Were it not for Ayoola’s funny little habit – we’re coming to that – she would be just another straightforwardly irritating baby sister. Ayoola uses her great beauty to twist everyone around her little finger. She sails through life with a self-satisfied air of entitlement. Nothing is too good for her, and as far as men and sex are concerned, Ayoola can have pretty much who she likes, when she likes. She has no qualms about dropping boyfriends, either, just as soon as she gets bored with them.
And there’s our problem. When Ayoola finishes with a man, it’s terminal. There’s no way back for him; no pleading phone calls, no flowers and chocolates, no emails asking for a second chance.
Because she kills them. Which is where Korede comes in. Someone has to help Ayoola clean up her latest mess (she was never much good at that, be it clearing away the breakfast dishes or a still-warm body) and who better than her loyal, competent, ever-forgiving and understanding big sister?
The trouble is, Korede doesn’t see it like that. She’s coming to the end of her tether. Not surprising, really. By the time Braithwaite’s book begins, Ayoola is on murder number three. ‘My sister the serial killer’ indeed.
Lovely, wicked humour this; a story to relish and make your hair curl at the same time. I shouldn’t like Ayoola – she puts the silent ‘p’ into psychopath – but for all her murderous ways there’s something almost childlike and innocent about her.
But she’s clever, in a horribly, instinctive way, is Ayoola. She always has an excuse ready to explain away her latest grisly conclusion to a romance. Self-defence. What could she do? The deceased was about to hit/stab/strangle her, wasn’t he? Of course, with no witnesses the police may not see it like that… hence another of those late-night phone calls to big sis.
And Korede always obliges, however unwillingly, however appalled she may be. She’ll be there with her mop and bucket, rubber gloves, strong bleach, and stronger nerves. Of course, she’s used to blood and death – Korede is an experienced nurse in one of Nigeria’s leading hospitals, where she harbours an unrequited crush on a glamorous young doctor.
And that’s the hinge on which this story begins to turn. When Ayoola meets the object of her sister’s desire the good doctor instantly falls head over heels in love with her. Korede is appalled. She knows all too well how these things tend to conclude. What can she do? Who should she put first – the man she would die for, or the sister who is likely to kill him?
I won’t spoil the ending, but it may surprise you. It did me; not at all what I was expecting. But it did leave me with one unanswered question.
When is Oyinkan’s next book coming out? Can’t be soon enough for me.