Karori Library Cauldron of Creation: this month’s new fiction

Karori library and the birth of the international bestselling novel, Strange Sally Diamond.

Welcome to this month’s latest selection of recently acquired fiction. As is traditional in these blogs, we like to take a  particular title and expand on some aspect of the book; be it character, location or subject. It’s often quite difficult with such a wide variety of books and subjects you could explore. However, this month’s choice was easy –  the new book by top Irish writer Liz Nugent Strange Sally Diamond leapt immediately to the top of the list, especially with our very unexpected role in its creation.

Let me elucidate –  way back on Thursday 3 October 2019, we staged a very special event at Karori Library in conjunction with the Ngaio Marsh awards. This event featured Liz Nugent in conversation with our own multi award winning author, Kirsten McDougall.

This event was very well-attended, well-received and featured a great conversation between Liz and Kirsten. And as is customary at these events, if there is any time at the end, we opened the floor to questions. One of the questions was ‘Do you think New Zealand, and specifically Wellington, would be a good place to locate a crime thriller?’

Kirsten McDougall
Kirsten McDougall

Four years later and with a fabulous new book in tow, Liz Nugent explained in several interviews how one of the book’s locations was chosen after being posed an intriguing question from a member of the public at a library event in Karori Library a few years back.

The book is a delicious and wonderful concoction, choc full of strange, dark and mysterious twists and  turns. And without any plot spoiling, it does feature New Zealand; a strongly recommended read from this highly acclaimed writer,

If you weren’t at this particular library event, we did film the whole thing, including that question and Liz’s answer, and you can watch this video below, or on our YouTube channel.

The other wonderful titles in this month’s selection are below.


Strange Sally Diamond / Nugent, Liz
“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.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Empty theatre : or, The lives of King Ludwig II of Bavaria and Empress Sisi of Austria (Queen of Hungary), cousins, in their pursuit of connection and beauty despite the expectations placed on them because of the exceptional good fortune of their status a / Jemc, Jac
“A wildly over-the-top social satire reimagining the mad misadventures of iconic royal cousins King Ludwig and Empress Sisi, from the incomparable Jac Jemc”– Provided by publisher.History knows them as King Ludwig II of Bavaria and Empress Elizabeth of Austria, icons of the late nineteenth century who died young and left behind magnificent portraits and palaces…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Kind / Johnson, Stephanie
“Kerry-Anne is kind, unlike her foster sister Joleen, who is a different kind of person altogether. Being locked down for Joleen will mean behind bars. For Kerry-Anne’s ex-husband, the National MP Lyall Hull, lockdown will also take on a new meaning when he goes on a cycle trip instead of staying at home. From lockdown in the Bay of Islands, Kerry-Anne tries to work out what both are up to. Will anyone come up smelling of roses?” (Adapted from Catalogue)


The Manhattan girls / Paul, Gill
“New York City, 1921 – An impossible dream. The war is over, the twenties are roaring, but in the depths of the city that never sleeps, Dorothy Parker is struggling to make her mark in a man’s world. A broken woman. She’s penniless, she’s unemployed and her marriage is on the rocks when she starts a bridge group with three extraordinary women — but will they be able to save her from herself? A fight for survival. When tragedy strikes, and everything Dorothy holds dear is threatened, it’s up to Peggy, Winifred and Jane to help her confront the truth before it’s too late. Because the stakes may be life or death.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The teacher of Warsaw : a novel / Escobar, Mario
“International bestselling author Mario Escobar captures the strength of the human spirit and the enduring power of kindness in this moving novel based on the true story of a brave Polish teacher who cared for hundreds of orphans in the Warsaw Ghetto.” (Adapted from Catalogue)


Going zero / McCarten, Anthony
” Ten Americans have been carefully selected to Beta test a ground-breaking piece of spyware. Pioneered by tech-wunderkind Cy Baxter in collaboration with the CIA, FUSION can track anyone on earth. But does it work? Each participant is given two hours to ‘Go Zero’ — to go off-grid and disappear – and then thirty days to elude the highly sophisticated Capture Teams sent to find them. Any Zero that beats FUSION will receive $3 million. If Cy’s system prevails, he wins a $90 billion-dollar government contract to revolutionize surveillance forever. For one contestant, an unassuming Boston librarian named Kaitlyn Day, the stakes are far higher than money…” (Catalogue)

One small voice / Bhattacharya, Santanu
“It is 1992, and India is ablaze with riots. In Lucknow, ten-year-old Shubhankar witnesses a terrible act of mob violence — an act in which his family are complicit and which alters the course of his life. In the two decades that follow, as he comes of age, Shabby must wrestle with the ghosts of his past and the expectations of his parents driven by guilt, but also by his dreams, as he tries to navigate the contradictions of modern India. In Mumbai he encounters Ganjeri and Shruti, both, like him, seeking the freedom to rewrite their stories and forge new connections and each entangled in the ties of family and tradition…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Tomorrow I become a woman / Odafen, Aiwanose
“When Gozie and Obianuju meet in August 1978, it is nothing short of fate. He is the perfect man: charismatic, handsome, Christian, and — most importantly — Igbo. He reminds her of her beloved Uncle Ikenna, her mother’s brother who disappeared fighting in the Civil War that devastated Nigeria less than a decade before. It is why, when Gozie asks her to marry him within months of meeting, she says yes, despite her lingering and uncertain feelings for Akin — a man her mother would never accept, as his tribe fought on the other side of the war. Akin makes her feel heard, understood, intelligent; Gozie makes her heart flutter. For Uju, the daughter her mother never wanted, marriage would mean the attainment of that long elusive state of womanhood, and something else she has desired all her life — her mother’s approval.” (Adapted from Catalogue)