Elijah is 12 years old and has lived the Memory Wood for as long as he can remember.
Elissa is a talented young chess player who has been abducted from a chess tournament, brought to the basement of a building in the Memory Wood, and is now held captive there. Waking up manacled, in a dark, smelly basement with some candles and a bucket, you can’t help but feel the horror and bewilderment of this poor 13 year old child whose world has been turned upside down in an instant.
Elijah finds Elissa down in the basement and tries to befriend her. He calls her ‘Gretel’ to his own ‘Hansel’ and the place she is held in is the ‘Gingerbread House’. Recognising a potential friend and rescuer in Elijah, Elissa begins to bond with this strange boy, although he quickly shows himself to be highly sensitive and volatile, so she’s not actually sure if she’s any better off for having him on her side or if he is really dangerous. He obviously knows that what’s happening to Elissa is wrong but he seems far too scared and conflicted to do anything about it. It also appears that this isn’t the first time he’s been through this which is even more unsettling.
When news of the abduction breaks, there are potential links and similarities to previous cases of missing girls, and Det. Supt, Mairead McCullough is determined to find the connection, and bring Elissa back alive. Mairead has her own issues going on and her behaviour around this was the only bit of this book I found a unlikely – you’ll see why when you read it, but I felt it was unnecessary and distracted a bit from the main story.
The book flips between Elissa, Elijah and Mairead’s perspectives and in doing so flows really well and gives you little snippets of clues as to what’s really going on in the Memory Wood. The characters are very well written and really leap off the page at you. There’s a lot of confusion throughout the book as you think you know what’s happening, then realise you really didn’t. It’s twisty, but it’s clever – the twists come at you from nowhere and change your whole perception of what’s happening and why. You think you’ve got a handle on it and it’s gone – and it’s like that right up until the last few pages.
A brilliant read, The Memory Wood is a genuinely creepy best-selling Thriller in waiting, with a dark fairy-tale feel, a couple of main characters that you’re really rooting for, and some amazing twists that leave you wondering page after page.
Thanks to The Pigeonhole Book Club, Netgalley, Random House UK, Transworld Publishers for an ARC of this book.