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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

Strange Sally Diamond

Narrators: Jessica Regan, Stephen Hogan, Sara Lynam

ISBN: 978-1501189715

Publisher: Gallery Books

Publication Date: 07/18/2023

Format: Other

My Rating: 4 Stars

The internationally bestselling author of the “dark, captivating psychological thriller” (People) Lying in Wait returns with a wickedly dark, twisted, and brilliantly observed new novel about an enigmatic woman confronting her unknown past.

Reclusive Sally Diamond causes outrage by trying to incinerate her dead father. Now she’s the center of attention, not only from the hungry media and police detectives, but also a sinister voice from a past she does not remember. As she begins to discover the horrors of her early childhood, Sally steps into the world for the first time, making new friends, big decisions, and learning that people don’t always mean what they say.

But who is the man observing Sally from the other side of the world, and why does he call her Mary? And why does her new neighbor seem to be obsessed with her? Sally’s trust issues are about to be severely challenged…

My Review

In her fifth novel, Irish crime novelist Liz Nugent has created a mysterious, twisted, dark, and disturbing psychological thriller and a character you will root for as she explores her dark, tragic past in STRANGE SALLY DIAMOND.

As many reviewers have commented, this is Gail Honeyman's Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine (much darker, of course), meets Emma Donoghue's Room, and John Fowles' The Collector.

The story alternates between two perspectives, from Ireland to New Zealand, with a dark, terrifying image of abuse and trauma. Ruthlessly bullied as a child in Ireland, Sally has lived a quiet life with her parents, rarely venturing outside.

40 something, Sally Diamond, one of the narrators, is different. Quirky is on the spectrum and has been sheltered by her adoptive parents. She is fascinating, weird, endearing, eccentric, and strange, darkly humorous, with an unusual personality due to her traumatic childhood—a compelling character.

Peter is another narrator, the kidnapper's son, who becomes a version of his father. He is both victim and villain, damaged. How will Peter and Sally's world collide?

Sally cannot understand why what she did was so strange. She was only doing what her father told her to do: putting him out with the rubbish when he died. This triggers media attention when she incinerates his body. She takes things literally and is considered by many as neurodivergent. Sally is now out in the world on her own. With no social skills, she has trouble understanding people.

With a horrific backstory, her birth mother was kidnapped as an 11-year-old and tied to a chain inside a barn or shed behind a pedophile's house. Sally (born Mary) came into existence when her birth mother was around 18 years old and lived with her in that barn for seven years — She remembers nothing.

Sally attempts to merge into society since both her adopted parents are dead, and she is forced to make it alone. Difficult since her adoptive father sheltered her. She’s always known that she was adopted. Still, slowly—with the aid of letters her “father” left behind, plus a series of messages from a mysterious stranger —she comes to know the horrors of her past.

Sally is getting strange gifts in the mail from New Zealand, and a man she has recently met has become infatuated with her and her case. What is the connection?

A skilled author, Nugent explores trauma and abuse and lets the light in between the cracks. She knows how to write compelling and complex characters who may not have others' best interests at heart.

STRANGE SALLY DIAMOND examines the dilemma of nature versus nurture and good vs. evil, spinning the reader's head. Warning for some readers, this book is dark, sinister, horror-filled, unsettling, and claustrophobic, with vile and heinous behavior.

A fitting title, a signature Liz Nugent classic— delving into the darkest crevices of her characters' minds. UNPREDICIBLE! Powerful, inventive, and bold, a slow burn, dark, sinister, mysterious, sad, moving, and witty whydunnit. Crossing an array of emotions—told from two POVs and two timelines merging for a surprising ending.

I am looking forward to listening to the audio version narrated by Jessica Regan, Stephen Hogan, and Sara Lynam.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

Pub Date: July 18, 2023

My Rating: 4 Stars


"The best book I've read this year. A truly incredible reading experience."

- Lisa Jewell, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone and Watching You

"Shocking, disturbing and utterly original, Strange Sally Diamond will grip you from first page to last."

- Paula Hawkins, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Girl on the Train

“A brilliant book! Liz Nugent has outdone herself with this one.”

- Shari Lapena, New York Times bestselling author of The Couple Next Door

“A terrific read.”

- Anthony Horowitz, New York Times bestselling author of Magpie Murders

“Twisted and twisty, dark and gripping, no one is going to forget Sally Diamond in a hurry!"

- Graham Norton, New York Times bestselling author of Holding

“Liz Nugent dares to go where many won’t. This is wickedly dark territory. And yet amidst the darkness, she allows a light to glimmer—that of a diamond. Sally Diamond, to be precise.”

- Sarah Winman, internationally bestselling author of Still Life

“Nugent fashions an unforgettable protagonist in Sally, and never loses sight of her characters’ fundamental humanity, even as she piles on twists and steers the narrative into exceptional darkness. Inventive, addictive, and bold, this deserves a wide audience.”

- Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Nugent writes relatable, imperfect characters… This well-written, engaging novel isn’t for the light of heart, but it will find a home with readers who thrive on intricate plotlines and character development.”

- Booklist

"Sally is an appealing character—strange, yes, but also engagingly literal. Nugent hits exactly the right tone of empathy and optimism."

- Kirkus

"This is exquisite storytelling, harnessing a full palette of emotions. Darkness and humour, hope and despair. Sublime."

- Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine

“Nugent weaves a master tale of depravity, trauma, and mental health.”

- Library Journal

"Tense and suspenseful and often creepy, Liz Nugent has delivered a haunting and poignant tale, one that won’t be easy to forget any time soon."

- Mystery & Suspense

"There’s the usual trademark Liz Nugent disturbing content, but with a heart-felt dose of humanity to balance things out."

- Crime Reads Most Anticipated Crime Fiction of Summer 2024

About the Author

Liz was born in Dublin in 1967, where she now lives. She has written successfully for soap opera, radio drama, television plays, short stories and animation for children.

Liz’s first novel Unravelling Oliver was published to critical and popular acclaim in March 2014. It quickly became a firm favourite with book clubs and reader’s groups. In November of that year, it went on to win the Ireland AM Crime Novel of the Year at the Bord Gais Energy Book Awards and was long listed for the International Dublin Literature Prize 2016. She was also the winner of the inaugural Jack Harte Bursary provided by the Irish Writers Centre and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Dec 2014. Her second novel, Lying in Wait, was published in July 2016 and went straight to number 1 where it remained for seven weeks. Liz won the Monaco Bursary from the Ireland Funds and was Writer in Residence at the Princess Grace Irish Library in Monaco in Sept/Oct 2016. In Nov 2016, Lying in Wait won the prestigious RTE Ryan Tubridy Listener's Choice prize at the Irish Book Awards.

Aside from writing, Liz has led workshops in writing drama for broadcast, she has produced and managed literary salons and curated literary strands of Arts Festivals. She regularly does public interviews and panel discussions on all aspects of her writing. WEBSITE







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