Strange Sally Diamond – Liz Nugent

Published By: Penguin
Pages: 384
Released On: 02/03/2023

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 police detectives, but also a sinister voice from a past she cannot remember. As she begins to discover the horrors of her childhood, Sally steps into the world for the first time, making new friends and 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 her neighbour seem to be obsessed with her? Sally’s trust issues are about to be severely challenged.


**Potential Thematic Spoilers**

Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

TW: kidnapping, abduction, imprisonment, violence, sexual assault, physical abuse, mental abuse, death, coercion, manipulation, paedophilia.

This is my first book by Liz Nugent so I had no preconceptions as to what to expect from her writing, and I quite liked going in blind. But now I’ve read one, you can be sure I’ll be reading all of her work. She has managed, through one book alone, to become a top author for me.

It is a pure psychological thriller, not just for the reader, but for those in the book too. The main character, the supporting characters, the background characters…everyone is on this journey, whether for good or for bad. It hits you straight out of the gates. Liz hasn’t hung about, you’re thrown into the action almost immediately and she doesn’t let up for one moment.

I absolutely loved the interlinking stories. I think it’s very difficult to create a story using two points of view and two time periods and make it easy to read, but she’s perfected that. We have the main story of Sally Diamond herself, but then e have a second story from a Peter. It takes a while for us to know how his story links (I won’t spoil it), but Liz has managed to keep them separate entities but superbly linked. It flows so well that you never feel shortchanged, but she’s leaving a little for you to work out yourself.

I really liked Sally. Her quirks and her difficulties shout of a neurodiverse personality or condition – such as autism; this is explained in further detail, but again, I won’t spoil it here. A lot of fictional books put neurodiverse characters into three camps: they’re either there to be the entertainment, or the bullied characters, or they’re ignored. Liz has handled Sally with great sensitivity and she is as important a main character as any non-neurodiverse one. Regardless of what she may or may not have done, or may or may not have said, or what she’s been through, she is this instantly likeable person whose heart is definitely in the right place.

Yes, it is a dark book (see themes above). There’s no getting away from that. It’s unsavoury, there are things people do and say that make you uncomfortable. It borders the gratuitous but for me, I think she’s got it right. It is full on and some of it is hard to stomach, but it is completely in keeping with the theme of the book. She provides enough detail to make the scene understandable, but leaves enough for you to develop in your head.

Given it’s dark storyline and topics, I did find some of it quite humorous. It’s not a comic book, but there’s this sense of dark humour running through it that somehow just worked. It also has elements of a murdery mystery about it. The twists and turns, the unanswered questions, the hidden answers, the…well…mystery. It’s fabulously done.

It is compelling, gripping, exciting, exhilarating, dark, troubling, happy, sad, twisted, dark, endearing, obsessive, funny, scary, enlightening, empowering — but overall, I would say it’s very moving and touching. Sally Diamond is a Diamond. She has her troubles but she’s a shining star, and her story really touched me and she’s instantly become a favourite character of mine.

I know it’s not very ‘literary’ to say but it is good. Very good. Extremely good. That’s the main way of describing it. Yes there’s more detail to go into, which I hope I have in this review, but when all is said and done, this is a very good book.

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