The Memory Wood

by Sam Lloyd

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LoveReading Expert Review of The Memory Wood

A beautiful, heartrending, fully immersive thriller centred around an abduction. Chosen as a LoveReading star book.

Set aside plenty of quality time, as once I started, this was a read in one beautiful, heartrending, fully immersive sitting for me. When Elissa is abducted, her hopes of escape flame into being after Elijah finds her hidden in the heart of Memory Wood. A truly fabulous opening sets the scene, I felt as though I knew Elijah, his very being is stamped on the pages, and yet there is so much that remains unknown. Knowing the abduction was coming set my heart pounding and added to the tension rather than dispersing it. While the seven days of the story slide backwards and forwards in part one, I was completely confident and very much in every moment. In part one chapters are headed by the day, and one of the characters, while in part two you know exactly when you are. Sam Lloyd’s words were so in tune and belonging to each child that I almost didn’t need to know who was heading the chapter. I was on edge and uncertain as to the outcome throughout, as the ending hurtled towards me I gasped and felt utterly consumed. The Memory Wood is one of those novels that I almost wanted to read from behind a cushion, and yet I couldn’t put it down. Chosen as a LoveReading star book, this is a must-read for me.

Liz Robinson

The Memory Wood Synopsis

Elijah has lived in the Memory Wood for as long as he can remember. It's the only home he's ever known.

Elissa has only just arrived. And she'll do everything she can to escape.

When Elijah stumbles across thirteen-year-old Elissa, in the woods where her abductor is hiding her, he refuses to alert the police. Because in his twelve years, Elijah has never had a proper friend. And he doesn't want Elissa to leave.

Not only that, Elijah knows how this can end. After all, Elissa isn't the first girl he's found inside the Memory Wood.

As her abductor's behaviour grows more erratic, Elissa realises that outwitting strange, lonely Elijah is her only hope of survival. Their cat-and-mouse game of deception and betrayal will determine both their fates, and whether either of them will ever leave the Memory Wood . . .

About This Edition

ISBN: 9780552176583
Publication date: 10th December 2020
Author: Sam Lloyd
Publisher: Corgi Books an imprint of Transworld Publishers Ltd
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 416 pages
Primary Genre Thriller and Suspense
Other Genres:

What To Read After The Memory Wood

The Blame Game
Into the Dark
What Remains of Me

The Memory Wood Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

Elissa and Elijah, an unlikely friendship born of terror and loneliness, can it survive? If this is Sam Lloyd's first novel, I can't wait to see what he comes up with next!

Wow! What a fantastic book! I think this is one of my favourite books of all time and will stay with me for a long time to come.

Elissa is a 13-year-old chess player who gets snatched whilst attending a chess tournament. Her ordeal is horrific and brutal, but she is a brave and resourceful girl. In her captivity, she meets Elijah. Elijah is an enigmatic and very weird character who obviously has his own story which is gradually revealed. The story is so captivating and full of twists and turns. Just when you think you know which way the story is going, it takes another twist and goes in another direction, leaving the reader stunned. The setting for the story, The Memory Wood is a strange and creepy place which leaves the reader unsettled and out of their comfort zone. This is where Elijah lives and runs wild, and where Elissa is kept hidden. The third main character, Mairead, is the detective tasked with finding Elissa. For me, she was the weakest of the characters having her own demons which seems to be a requirement of detectives in novels.

The story is very well written, told in different timelines and it flows easily along, I didn't want to put it down. The ending, which can usually be contrived, was terrific and didn't disappoint. I fully recommend this book.

christine woolfenden

Wow! Just wow! For a debut thriller, I have to say this is intense. Absolutely loved it, couldn’t put it down. I urge anyone and everyone to read this.

The title of this book is intriguing. I can’t say much as yet about the cover as I’m not sure if this is the final design, but I liked the orange-tinged pages. It made me wonder what secrets were concealed among them.
The book is made up of two parts and within each part, three main characters tell the story from their viewpoint. This works well and helps to create a sense of drama, tension and frustration.
The story revolves around Elissa, a 13-year-old genius chess player who goes to compete at a major chess tournament. Horrendously, she is abducted from the car park and so begins a battle to survive. DS Mairead MacCullagg is in charge of the investigation and has her own personal battle to try to survive as well as trying to find Elissa. During her imprisonment, Elissa is visited by 12-year-old Elijah and an understanding of sorts begins as they share a little about themselves with each other.
Will Elissa’s genius be able to save her? Will DS MacCullagh get there in time? Who is Elijah?
I absolutely loved this novel! For a debut, I think it’s stunning. Lots of twists and turns, great descriptions of locations and of people. I could visualise it all. I for one will be following Sam Lloyd in the future. If this is his debut, I can’t wait to see what happens as his work progresses and develops

Amanda O’Dwyer

Dark and delicious thriller, The Memory Wood is a great novel from beginning to end, I couldn't put it down!

I read the book in three days flat as I became totally engrossed! Essentially a story about a young, female, nerdy, chess champion who is kidnapped and the aftermath of the hunt for her and her kidnapper.
An interesting take on mental health issues, which is so relevant for today's openness about this crippling illness. An original storyline of how the two main characters Elijah and Elissa try to outwit each other, playing cat and mouse. Elijah wants a friend but on his terms, that is keeping her hostage, and Elissa just wants to go home. There is new drama on every page, with a proper ending to the story, something that seems to be lacking in many novels these days. I haven't read a thriller of this quality for quite some time, dark and delicious!

Glenda Worth

The Memory Wood is dark, foreboding and with more twist and turns than a Helter Skelter.

Thirteen-year-old Elissa is smart, loves chess, and when she and her mother travel to compete at the English Youth Grand Prix event (something Elissa has been dreaming of her whole life) they have no idea that their lives are about to change.
Elissa is kidnapped and hidden away, scared and alone, until the arrival of Elijah. He doesn't want her to ever leave what he calls The Memory Wood. Elissa needs to keep her wits and work out if Elijah on her side if she wants to escape.
Dark, foreboding and with more twists and turns than a Helter Skelter, I can't wait for the next book by Sam Lloyd...

Angie Rhodes

Great book, loved the storyline. I was hooked, wondering what would happen. The ending will not disappoint you.

This is the story of Elijah and Elissa. Elissa as been abducted and taken to a strange place, where she is held captive. Elijah happens to stumble across her one day and slowly gains her trust. Elissa wants to leave as fast as possible but Elijah doesn’t want her to. What will happen? Will they both be trapped or will they both escape and stop this happening again and again? Read to find out.....

Soph Ufton

One thing is for certain, no-one is as they seem.

"If you've only just arrived, why do you want to leave?"

Elissa is just a teenager and a budding chess player. Then, one afternoon she is abducted from a hotel car park and taken to memory wood. Here she is manacled to a wall in a cellar and must obey her captor if she is to survive. Elijah has lived in these woods for as long as he can remember. the cottage is one of the places he visits and then he happens upon Elissa. But he does not try to free her, just plays a fairytale - Hansel and Gretel living in the gingerbread cottage

One thing is for certain, no-one is as they seem. This book is told in short alternating chapters between the various characters. The story slowly reveals itself like peeling an onion. The power of the mind comes across as a key theme and I liked the characterisation.

Bev Taylor

Fantastically written, tensely plotted and perfectly executed, I thoroughly enjoyed reading “The Memory Wood”, it had everything I like from an original thriller and I expect it to be a much sought after bestseller as soon as it’s released.

Billed as the must-read book of 2020 and described as chilling, moving and unputdownable, The Memory Wood is certainly a book to be looking out for next year and was admittedly a read I did not expect.

“Elijah has lived in the Memory Wood for as long as he can remember. It’s the only home he’s ever known. Elissa has only just arrived. And she’ll do everything she can to escape......” With a premise as intriguing as that, it was impossible not to get addicted to the story from the very first page. Due to the twists and turns in the plot, you’re really kept on your toes and the emotional rollercoaster you’re on when the story plays out, really draws you in and doesn’t let go. Told from the perspective of three characters only - frail twelve-year-old Elijah, thirteen-year-old chess prodigy Elissa and DS Mairead MacCullagh, I liked how the chapters overlapped between Elijah and Elissa and how they expressed their intense thoughts and feelings. Mairead’s personal and emotional issues during the investigation into Elissa’s disappearance was truly palpable and my heart went out to her when she discovered her worst fears had come true again.

The author chose a denouement that was both powerful and emotionally charged and I’m not frightened to admit I did feel tearful during the last few pages. The first half of the book was a slow build and often a little repetitive but this created a sinister and creepy atmosphere. The second half kicked off with a cruel race against time and I couldn’t help but be totally invested in the rescue of Elissa. She was a very clever, mature and likeable girl and the author has created a brilliant character that showed strength and determination not to leave her mother alone should she die.

Written by Sam Lloyd, I understand the germ of the idea came when he drove his son to a chess tournament at a busy secondary school venue and a wife who constantly worried about imagined nightmare scenarios involving their firstborn son. Something every parent at some point imagines and which is totally relatable and normal. The author then plotted the story around these events and ended up with a novel that’s unforgettable, nightmarish and totally unique.

Fantastically written, tensely plotted and perfectly executed, I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Memory Wood, it had everything I like from an original thriller and I expect it to be a much sought after bestseller as soon as it’s released.

Miriam Smith

It will be a pleasure to recommend this book to the members of the two Reading Groups that I belong to, plus the reading public.

I enjoyed this book because it was original in its plot. It is laid out in an easy to read format with short chapters. At the start of which, we are told whose point of view the story is about. The front cover of the book would encourage me to buy it. The three orange outer page edges of the paperback book are distinctive. You were kept page-turning and guessing “who did it” right to the end.

A good story well told with relatively few well-defined characters. The detective in charge of the enquiry was different, because of the personal issues which I have never found in any other Crime Thriller. It was hard to select which of the characters performed or gained more support from the Reader. The difficulties and troubles endured by Ellissa were more than any other young heroine.

It will be a pleasure to recommend this book to the members of the two Reading Groups that I belong to, plus the reading public.

Marjorie Lacy

Wow!! What an amazing book! Totally gripping with a spine chilling story that reels you in and then unravels. Terrifying real.

This is an amazing book to read. It's gripping from the outset and you just know there is going to be a spine chilling tale to be told. The characters are instantly engaging and you bond with them and are equally terrified when things start to go wrong. The story has such a reality about it that you can completely relate to what is happening which makes it so much more horrifying. The two central characters of Elissa and Elijah are beautifully described and help you to immerse yourself in the book. I haven't read a book for quite some time that I almost wanted to rush to get to the end but then didn't want it to end! Lots of twists and turns to keep you turning the pages wanting to know what on earth could happen next. I will definitely be looking forward to more books by this author.


Sinister, compelling and unsettling with a white-knuckle ride all the way to the climax. I literally could not put it down.

The Memory Wood is the story of the abduction of Thirteen-year-old Elissa and the race to find her, but in fact it's so much more than that. Far from being a victim, Elissa is a resourceful, intelligent and brave young girl. Promising herself that she will not allow her mother to lose her only daughter and face the rest of her life alone, Elissa's will to survive is extraordinary. However sometimes the will to survive isn’t enough. Shackled in an isolated basement, hidden deep within the Memory Wood, Elissa has very little chance of making it out alive, until she meets Elijah. This strange boy could be her saviour – if he wanted to be.

Even better than I expected, this is a stunning debut novel. The Memory Wood grabs you from the outset. It’s sinister, compelling and unsettling and then comes The Moment. It hits you like a sucker-punch to the chest and from that second it’s a white-knuckle ride all the way to the climax. I literally could not put it down. Absolutely brilliant!

S. Harper

The Memory Wood, a fabulously scary page-turner!

I am not one nowadays for scary books, motherhood has turned me into somewhat of a wimp. However, I could not put this book down.

In The Memory Wood, Sam Lloyd has created a novel in which every parents' nightmare is played out - their child is abducted. What's unusual is the child in question is not a toddler but a clever chess-playing 13-year-old. 

When I finished the book I told my children they were never leaving my sight again! 

Well written, in parts a little descriptive, but overall I thought it was a great book. One that will have you questioning and thinking for weeks to come.

I even went back and read the first chapter again once I found some information out. See if you do the same!

Amy Wynne

A great debut and had me hooked from the start and guessing up to the very end.

This is an amazing debut and had me gripped from the start and didn't let me go until the very last page. Elissa is a chess player and a very good one at that and when she attends the tournament that she hopes with make her 'big' on the circuit at 13 she has no idea what is in store for her. Whilst taking a break she finds herself bundled into the back of a van and the next thing she remembers is being somewhere very dark and cold. She is chained to the floor and the only company she has is the person who kidnapped her and later Elijah who visits but seems reluctant to tell the authorities where she is. The officer in charge of the investigation, Mairead has her own problems to work out but has to put them on hold whilst the case is over but they keep surfacing. I liked the way that there seemed to be no clues and no working out the ending as the author kept so many balls in the air which made a great read and many surprises on the way.

Carol Peace

If you love yourself an addictive, creepy read with some police procedural thrown in this is definitely the book for you.

The Memory Wood follows the story of a 13-year-old chess player Elissa who is abducted from the car park where she is competing in a major chess tournament. She is taken into The Memory Wood and locked up in an underground hideout. During her imprisonment, Elissa is visited by a 13-year-old boy called Elijah, and they begin to form a kind of friendship. 

The Memory Wood started off like any other mystery/thriller but then felt like it was going to turn into a fairy tale retelling but I was wrong, in fact, it turned into a very creepy page-turner, that I found very difficult to put down. 

The book is well written and the story is told through three different perspectives and jumps back and forwards. Sometimes when a story is told by multiple perspectives and jumps back and forwards it can get confusing and difficult to follow but not in this book, in this book everything felt like it flowed effortlessly, and it’s not very often you find this in books.

The characters in The Memory Wood were very interesting and some were quite creepy. My favourite was Elissa, although thrown into a scary situation she was able to keep calm and use some of her chess theories to stay alive. She’s not your average 13 year old. At the beginning, I thought Elijah’s character was weird and scary but by the end, I felt sorry for him as it’s not all that it seems with him.

This was a great debut novel, with some great twists and with ending that will have set you heart racing and have you sitting on the edge of your seat.  I think this novel would make a great movie and if it is ever made into a movie I would definitely go and watch it.  I look forward to seeing what else Sam Lloyd has to offer. 

If you love yourself an addictive, creepy read with some police procedural thrown in this is definitely the book for you. So, don’t forget to keep an out for this new book coming in February 2020.

Manisha Natha

Sam Lloyd Press Reviews

Brilliant writing, a terrifying story, and characters so real it feels like you know them. If you enjoy dark, twisty thrillers that stay with you, read this book. - Samantha Downing

I was captivated by The Memory Wood - a beautifully told, dark and chilling tale. - Renee Knight

Remarkable. Stunning prose and compulsive reading. It's undoubtedly the best thriller I've read in a long, long time. - Lesley Kara

What a book! I haven't read anything quite this exciting since Room. You think all the stories have been told, then something like this comes along. Wonderful. - Emma Curtis

I was pulled into The Memory Wood from the very first page-it grabs you by the throat and doesn't let you go. It's an intense, atmospheric, and truly original thriller. Put everything else aside when you enter the Memory Wood, including your expectations... - Shari Lapena

Other editions of this book

ISBN: 9780552176583
Publication date: 10/12/2020
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781787631847
Publication date: 20/02/2020
Format: Hardback

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About Sam Lloyd

Sam Lloyd grew up in Hampshire, making up stories and building secret hideaways in his local woods. These days he lives in Surrey with his wife, three young sons and a dog that likes to howl. The Memory Wood is his debut thriller.

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