My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister, The Serial Killer opens with Korede, a young Nigerian woman living in Lagos, receiving a panicked call from her younger sister Ayoola. Ayoola has murdered her boyfriend Femi 'in self-defence' and needs Korede's help in disposing of the body. And as if that wasn't an exciting enough opener, we then discover that this isn't the first time this has happened.

The sisters' personalities are wildly different: Korede, who works as a nurse, is efficient, capable and responsible, while fashion designer Ayoola is careless, self-centred and lazy and yet, at the same time, it's Ayoola who manages to charm almost everyone she meets and who their mother appears to favour. Where Korede is 'composed only of hard edges', Ayoola is 'made wholly of curves'.

One day, shortly after the murder of Femi (whose surname Ayoola has already forgotten even as Korede scrubs away the blood stains from the shower) Ayoola decides to visit Korede at work. Much to Korede's horror, she immediately sets her sights on Tade, a handsome doctor for whom Korede has long since carried a torch. When Tade is immediately bewitched by Ayoola's undeniable charm, Korede's worst nightmare looks like it's about to come true, and the only person she can confide in is an unconscious coma patient who can't hear a word she says.

Every character in My Sister, The Serial Killer is vividly and vibrantly portrayed, from the tense, long-suffering Korede and her blithely confident, outrageously entitled (yet often weirdly endearing) sister to the smitten Tade, the local police and Korede's infuriating, gossipy colleagues. Braithwaite does a fantastic job of bringing Lagos to life on the page, too, with all its noise and bustle and traffic jams. Split into short, staccato chapters, the novel rattles along at quite a pace even when there's very little actually happening.

You may be wondering why, exactly, Korede continues to put herself at risk to protect her cheerfully sociopathic sister. I think the book does answer that question in its flashbacks to the sisters' childhood, when their father was still alive, and perhaps it sheds some light on what made Ayoola the woman she is.

My Sister, The Serial Killer isn't a crime novel as such - there's no mystery and no detection. It's really the story of family loyalties and a complicated relationship between two sisters. It's often darkly funny but it's tense, too, and often unexpectedly poignant.