My Sister The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
For want of a confidante who’d share her loyalties, Korede spills out her woes to the comatose man in the hospital where she works. She flirts with her colleague, the doctor Tade, but all he sees is super-competent nurse. When Ayoola sets her cap at him, Korede juggles not only the usual sibling rivalries, but fears he’ll be the next corpse. Can she protect him without betraying her sister? Can it be true that the coma patient has woken up?
Set in Lagos, Oyinkan Braithwaite’s debut is a fun take on sisterhood and women’s refusal to pander to men. Who wouldn’t love the premise, but I also hoped it might deliver more depth. It does widen, however, providing the seeds of motivation in the sisters’ violent father, although it’s perhaps as well to gloss over Korede’s work at the hospital as we don’t witness much nursing going on.
There’s a host of female talent coming out of Nigeria; after The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, My Sister The Serial Killer is the second I’ve reviewed this month. Thanks to Atlantic Books for my review copy.
The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo
Ji Lin is at pains to ensure that neither her family, nor the dressmaker to whom she’s apprenticed, discover her part-time job partnering men through the foxtrot and tango. It isn’t perceived as a respectable activity for the step-daughter of a tin merchant. But it’s the best chance she has of paying off her mother’s mah-jong debts, although she’d rather be able to put money aside to study for a more challenging career.
When she picks up a mysterious object dropped by a dance partner who leaves in a hurry, Ji Lin is shocked. What would he want with a severed finger preserved in a jar? She’s still wondering how to return it when she reads in a newspaper that the man has died in an accident. Is she stuck with it now?
While enjoying both characters and the colonial culture of 1930s Malaysia, I wasn’t particularly invested in whether or not the doctor would be reunited with his finger in time. But, as the death count rises, the narrative broadens out in an extremely satisfying way. The Europeans embark on a tiger hunt, while some of the locals blame the mythical weretiger, and Ren shudders at the echoes of his former employer’s behaviour shortly before he died. William, afraid of his liaisons with local women coming to light, wonders at how convenient each of these deaths is to him.
Meanwhile, Ji Lin dreams of a boy at a railway station who turns out to be Ren’s deceased twin Yi. When circumstances bring them together, along with her step-brother Shin, all but one of the five Confucian Virtues is represented through their names. In her dreams, Yi insists that the fifth, Li, is also among them, and manipulating events for their own ends.
Yangsze Choo’s second novel is an historical murder mystery, quest and love story addressing spiritual belief and superstition in a part of the world I know little about (so a welcome addition to my Reading Around the World project). Thanks to Quercus books for my review copy.
We weren’t short of invitations but, with only one decent outfit between us, we could never risk a double date. So we always consulted the other before accepting and neither of us minded being the one who stayed home. We treasured our sibling’s enjoyment as much as our own.
When people warned us such harmony wasn’t normal, we laughed. They’d never experienced the strength of sisterly love. Until the evening I returned from the shower to get ready for dinner with Valentine and found our wardrobe empty, a scribbled apology from my sister by my pillow on the bed.