You can rely on Irish author Liz Nugent to deliver on a strong psychological thriller with a sinister undertone. And with Strange Sally Diamond she absolutely does not let us down. It covers some pretty serious themes while giving us the highly memorable character of Sally Diamond.
Opening sentence: ‘Put me out with the bins,’ he said, regularly.
Meet Sally Diamond
Sally Diamond lives in a small Irish village, Carricksheedy with her adoptive parents. She’s in her 40s but still lives at home, a creature of habit you could say, but with Sally there’s a far deeper reason. The characterisation of Sally is the heart of this book and when her nuances are first revealed – she doesn’t like being touched, she pretends she’s deaf so she doesn’t have to make conversation with people, she has issues controlling her temper – you do wonder why, but I don’t think you’ll guess at the reason.
Who better to manage such a damaged child? That’s what he called me. A damaged child.
Sally is child-like in a lot of her interactions, learning how she should respond in social situations and high-fiving herself when she navigates interacting with other people. She also has no natural filter – although she is getting better at not saying everything that comes to her mind. This leads to some chuckle-moments when you see her holding back on what she wanted to say.
These lighter moments are great for balancing out the darker themes that Strange Sally Diamond goes on to explore.
Not an easy read – but unputdownable
When her father dies, Sally takes him literally when he tells her to ‘put him out with the bins’ – so she does. This causes quite a stir in the local community and the police come knocking. This is the trigger for Sally’s past to be unearthed. Her father left her letters telling her the truth about how he came to adopt her. We then discover, along with Sally just what happened.
To go too much into that would take away from the impact of the story but I will say there are some very serious and potentially triggering topics that come into play, including abduction and abuse. These were not easy to read about but as Sally had already been so strongly established as a character, your heart just goes out to her and you want to find out more.
He studied the human mind. He told me that my mind worked perfectly but that I was emotionally disconnected.
The story is so well written and perfectly paced, you just can’t help but be drawn in.
The ending of Strange Sally Diamond wasn’t what I was expecting in one way, but when I remind myself this is a Liz Nugent novel, it is the only way the ending could be. Sorry for that ambiguous note to finish this review on but there’s no ambiguity in how much I loved this book. A compelling look at the darkest side of human nature and how good can blossom from even those situations.
- Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC;
- Get your copy of Strange Sally Diamond here;
- Published by Penguin Sandycove 2nd March 2023;
- 320 pages;
- My rating: