Strange Sally Diamond

Crime Novel of the Year, Irish Book Awards 2023

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Pub Date 02 Mar 2023 | Archive Date 09 Mar 2023

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‘I loved every damn second of it’ LISA JEWELL

Sally Diamond cannot understand why what she did was so strange. She was only doing what her father told her to do, to put him out with the rubbish when he died.

Now Sally is the centre of attention, not only from the hungry media and worried police, but also a sinister voice from a past she has no memory of. As she begins to discover the horrors of her childhood, recluse Sally steps into the world for the first time, making new friends, finding independence, and learning that people don't always mean what they say.

But when messages start arriving from a stranger who knows far more about her past than she knows herself, Sally's life will be thrown into chaos once again . . .


‘A magnificent novel by a major talent. Liz Nugent is a treasure’ SHARI LAPENA

‘Liz Nugent dares to go where many won’t. What a compelling storyteller she is. Always challenging. I laughed out loud only to recoil from my laughter as the story unfolded. For this is wickedly dark territory. And yet amidst the darkness, she allows a light to glimmer – that of a diamond’ SARAH WINMAN

‘What a book. What a book! Achingly beautiful with a cast of characters that'll remain with you long after the final page is turned. Already one of the must-read books of 2023’ JOHN MARRS

There’s something very special about all of Liz’s novels. Character-driven stories that are real and wild at the same time. This one blew me away. Unflinching, unpredictable & unputdownable. A dark masterpiece’ WILL DEAN (twitter)

‘I'm lost in admiration for Liz and her writing . . . it transcends genre and deserves to win literary prizes. It's vivid, pacy, taut but so very moving. It's written with enormous compassion and I LOVED the character of Sally, my heart absolutely broke for her. This novel feels *different*, it seems to me that it defies categorisation. It's dark certainly and the ending is chilling yet it's written with incredible heart’ MARIAN KEYES

‘It creeped me out (in a good way). Think Room and The Collector but add a dazzling/unique main character and encroaching dread. Terrific' IAN RANKIN

‘Liz Nugent has outdone herself. Twisted and twisty, dark and gripping, no one is going to forget Sally Diamond in a hurry!’ GRAHAM NORTON

‘A masterpiece’ FIONA CUMMINS

‘Twisted, shocking, and very, very, dark, Liz Nugent has created a character for the ages in Strange Sally DiamondLOUISE O’NEILL

‘It’s compassionate and challenging, letting us imagine the lives that are forgotten when the news cycle moves on . . . a very special book’ VAL MCDERMID

‘One of the most original, and spine-tingling books I’ve read in ages, Liz Nugent’s Strange Sally Diamond draws you in to the close, claustrophobic world of rural Ireland and the life of an emotionally withdrawn woman whose dark, hidden past is coming back to haunt her. Crackling with tension, this book with have you turning the pages late into the night. An absolute triumph’ ABIR MUKHERJEE

‘I loved every damn second of it’ LISA JEWELL

Sally Diamond cannot understand why what she did was so strange. She was only doing what her father told her to do, to put him out with the rubbish when...

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ISBN 9781844885756
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Featured Reviews

Wow! Liz Nugent has done it again. I loved this book & was deeply invested in the Sally Diamonds world. Sally is a superb character & brilliantly written. The subject matter is difficult to read at times bit it's well written and researched. One of Nugents strong points is making the reader care for deeply flawed characters . This book is amazing and should not be missed

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Liz Nugent has ‘smashed it out of the park’ again with this her sixth novel. As with her previous novels the first sentence had me gripped and I just knew this would be a book I would read very quickly. An absolutely amazing read with strong characters, some nice and others not so. This was a difficult read at times and also a poignant one. I loved everything about this amazing book and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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It seems like such a long time ago, early 2021, when I read my first Liz Nugent book. Our Little Cruelties was new in paperback, I read it, loved it and binged all of her other books.

I've read over 300 books in the meantime, and couldn't wait to read this one.

Sally Diamond is seen as strange, in her forties, she's lived an isolated life in a remote rural house. She avoids social interaction. An event following the death of her father drags her name into the limelight, with unwanted media and police attention.

Alone, she is forced to open up to others, and to look back into her past.

The blurb doesn't tell you much more, so I won't spoil the plot, but Sally is pulled into a deep and dark journey of discovery into her past and the family secrets that have been kept hidden.

Liz Nugent's character writing is exemplary, creating a strong empathy with Sally Diamond and her struggles. The plot is as deep and dark as it gets, multi-layered with 'who knew what when?' as the strands come together and the finer details get filled in.

Absolutely compelling, gripping reading that had me crying more than once. Only a few authors can write deeply involving psychological drama of this very highest quality.

I want to say this is Liz Nugent's best book yet, I think it is, then I remember my other favourites Lying In Wait and Our Little Cruelties. Safe to say this is an another extraordinary book from a hugely talented, accomplished and consistent author.

An absolute must read and sure to be in my books of the year.

Thanks to Netgalley and Penguin General UK

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Another fantastically written page turner from Liz Nugent - from page one, I was gripped & enthralled by the character of Sally who is developed so well as we learn more about her. An excellent novel, full of twists and turns.

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Another absolute cracker from Liz Nugent! Great story, loved the characters and so well written it kept me turning the pages. Well worth the wait from her last offering in March 2020. Thanks to NetGalley, the author and the publisher for the opportunity to read an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

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No-one quite writes flawed characters like Liz Nugent does and Strange Sally Diamond is full of them. This book grabbed me from the very first sentence and when a book does that, you just know it's going to be a good'un. A masterpiece in characterisation and another 5 ***** read as brilliant and gripping as all of her previous books. I urge you to read it.

Many thanks to Netgalley for a copy of this ARC for which I have given my voluntary and unbiased review.

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From the first page, Strange Sally Diamond commands your attention. The story reveals a woman who has had a traumatic childhood that has left her with behaviours that others find disturbing. From her approach to dealing with her father’s death to being confronted by her past, Nugent unravels the story bit by bit. Her attention to detail gives us a glimpse of Sally’s interpretation of the world and with it, our admiration and concern for Sally grows. The sense of dread as we learn more and more about Sally’s childhood means that you can’t stop turning the pages. Liz Nugent has an innate ability to pick an unusual circumstance and examine it from a unique perspective. The characters are well developed and the story is intriguing. Funny, poignant, bleak and dark. Brilliantly written and captures Sally’s character perfectly with the narrative.

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Oh Sally, I found myself cheering you on,
being frustrated with you and giving out to any character that dared upset you! Reading 'Strange Sally Diamond' has been tumultuous from an emotional perspective and I mean that in a positive manner. Liz Nugent creates the most brilliantly complex, intricate characters and as always, I found myself completely absorbed in the storyline and had to continue reading until I finished the book. I had to know what happened to Sally, Mark, Peter.
Another epic novel from a one of tye best writers around. Do yourself a favour and add to your reading list for 2023 NOW!

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Sally Diamond has been raised in a rural farmhouse with overprotective parents and little socialisation. With no real understanding of social cues, and an inability to read people or take whatever is said as anything other than completely literal, Sally does what her terminally ill father jokes about when he passes away: she puts him out with the bins,

To Sally, she is simply carrying out her late father's wishes; to the shocked rural community where she lives, Sally - strange, peculiar Sally - has committed a monstrous crime.

Yet as Sally begins to deal with the fallout from her actions, she finally begins to connect with others. But then strange notes start to arrive, and a ragged teddybear she instinctively knows is hers. And Sally's world, which is already shifting, will tip on its axis as she discovers the truth about who she really is...

Strange Sally Diamond is one of my favourite books this year - disturbing, compelling, redemptive, sad, and ebullient all at once. The writing is skilful, with characters so realistically drawn that you feel like you know them, and a plot that is beautifully paced and manged. I loved the alternating narrators as the book progressed, and was fascinated by the gradual revelations.

Masterful, haunting, and complex - I will be thinking about Sally for a long, long time. A must read.

Thank you to NetGalley and to the publisher for granting me a free ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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WOW!!!!! Hooked from the first page and read this book in one sitting… Full of tension and twists. A real page turner, a perfect book but OMG so much more!!!!!

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Sally Diamond has lived a quiet, peaceful life in a remote house with her psychiatrist father. It all changes when he dies, and she lights a bonfire. Sally is thrust into public attention. Gradually her extraordinary background is revealed. Sally grows in confidence as she discovers her origins, but unwelcome attention from someone unknown on the other side of the world, and an obsessive neighbour threaten her security.

Sally is a heroine to fall in love with, and this novel is a real tour de force. Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin UK for the advance reader copy.

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This one was worth waiting for! I have read and really enjoyed Nugent's previous books, I think this is her best book to date. Unputdownable. I was hooked from the first page , this was a compulsive read, so perfectly paced and impossible to guess where the story was going. I loved Sally Diamond, one of the most interesting characters I have read in a long time and I loved how her character was developed as the story unfolded. She was written with great care and empathy as were the darker elements to this book. There is nothing gratuitous , just careful, excellent storytelling.
I think this book will be huge and it will be a wonderful choice for book clubs. Well done to Liz Nugent, I think this book cements her position as one of Ireland's current finest authors.

4.5 star.

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Strange Sally Diamond. I remember when I first saw the cover and heard the title, it was not what I was expecting. Then again I don't know what I was expecting. But quite honestly there couldn't have been a better title for this book.
Sally Diamond...I wonder will that name be forever etched on my mind.
What a brilliant story from author Liz Nugent. I am in awe of her mind, her words and her stories.
Strange Sally Diamond is so dark, it's harrowing and quite quite disturbing.
The talent the author has shines through the pages in her story telling.
It really is quite a creepy story but ultimately a devastating one...
I feel I will be recommending this one forever.

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Wow. This definitely got my out of my reading rut.

Strange Sally Diamond is unlike any book I’ve read before. It reads like the respective journals of the two narrators, and Sally’s quirky, rigid voice took some getting used to, but I never got bored of her internal monologue. Some of the dialogue felt a little clunky and formal, but I think this was deliberate and helped immerse the reader in Sally’s atypical style of thinking (as well as speaking). She’s a frustrating character in many ways but her inability to trust people, to understand social nuances and form connections is a product of her extremely dysfunctional past and we can’t help but emphasise with her.

The subject matter is tough and very poignant in parts. Although only described in brief, the kidnap scene really got to me- the child’s innocence and knowing what lay in store for her. So many lives destroyed by one despicable character; it was genuinely heart wrenching in some places, particularly given such atrocities do, sickeningly, actually happen in real life. There are no overly gratuitous descriptions but the sheer hell of what Denise (and later another character) endured is difficult to read.

The character of Conor was stomach churning but so well drawn and genuinely chilling. I felt so conflicted about Peter - he had many redeeming features, and of course he was never going to be ‘normal’, but his final decision is horrifying. It is also in some ways heartbreaking - he tried to live a normal life but ultimately gave in to what he seems to see as his fate. He is clearly a product of his upbringing and all he has witnessed and been exposed to.

Unusually, there is no neat and happy ending to this book, which surprised me. Although things were ‘tied up’ in a way, the devastation caused by the events in the book are felt right up to the last page. There is some stirring of hope in the epilogue, but overall Liz Nugent doesn’t shy away from a messy and in some ways depressing conclusion to the story. I suppose, given all that happens in the story, there can hardly be any realistic alternative.

I enjoyed this greatly (despite finding it tough to read!) and finished it within 24 hours which is virtually unheard of these days for me (thanks kids!). 5 stars. Beautiful, painful and confronting.

Thanks to the author, publisher and netgalley for the ARC.

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