Monday, January 28, 2013

Review: The Map of Lost Memories

Summary: Suspense and secrets are woven together in this engrossing fiction debut by Kim Fay. The Map of Lost Memories takes readers on a daring expedition to a remote land, where the search for an elusive treasure becomes a journey into the darkest recesses of the mind and heart.

In 1925, the international treasure-hunting scene is a man’s world, and no woman knows this better than Irene Blum, who is passed over for the coveted curator position at Seattle’s renowned Brooke Museum. But she is not ready to accept defeat. Skilled at acquiring priceless, often illicitly trafficked artifacts, Irene is given a rare map believed to lead to a set of copper scrolls that chronicle the lost history of Cambodia’s ancient Khmer civilization. Such a find would not only restore her reputation, it would be the greatest archaeological discovery of the century.

As Irene travels from Seattle to Shanghai to the Cambodian jungles, she will encounter several equally determined companions, including a communist temple robber and a dashing nightclub owner with a complicated past. As she and her fellow adventurers sweep across borders and make startling discoveries, their quest becomes increasingly dangerous. Everyone who comes to this part of the world “has something to hide,” Irene is told—and she learns just how true this is. What she and her accomplices bring to light will do more than change history. It will ultimately solve the mysteries of their own lives. -- Ballantine

I probably shouldn't admit this, but I picked up THE MAP OF LOST MEMORIES by Kim Fay a few months ago and put it down after just a chapter. It wasn't that the book didn't capture my interest, but something more urgent probably ended up taking precedence over this novel -- that always seems to happen to me because I over commit (but that's another story!) Then I discovered that this book was nominated 2013 Edgar Award finalist for Best First Novel by an American Author, and I remembered that I had it sitting on my bookshelf and I thought it would be perfect to feature it for Mystery Mondays.

And truth be told -- I am very glad that I picked up THE MAP OF LOST MEMORIES again. It truly is a unique and well written story that is worthy of the award nomination and the starred reviews. It's not a mystery in the traditional sense of the word, although there certainly are a lot of mystery aspects to this story, but it is most definitely a novel of suspense. As a result, I think it's a terrific book to feature here.

THE MAP OF LOST MEMORIES is a wonderful mix of historical fiction and suspense that takes place in 1925. It tells the story of Irene Blum, a woman who expected to become the curator at Seattle's Brooke Museum due to her hard work and success dealing with artifacts. When she was passed over, Irene decided that she had to prove her worth in some other way, namely discovering the copper scrolls that tell the story of Cambodia's ancient Khmer civilization.

Irene's quest takes her from Seattle to Shanghai to the jungles of Cambodia. Along the way, Irene meets up with some very interesting travel companions including an ex-nightclub owner with whom she falls in love and an unpredictable communist temple robber. As this group tries to find the temple and the copper scrolls, they face many hidden dangers and surprises including their relationships with each other.

THE MAP OF LOST MEMORIES is an intense read and has a little bit of something for every reader. The book is based in 1925 with many references to the past so it is most definitely a work of historical fiction. However, because of the quest to find the scrolls, the book is also a mystery filled with lots of suspense and adventure. In addition, the author does a wonderful job of bringing the jungles of Cambodia and the city of Shanghai to life so it's perfect for readers who enjoy travel, and there is even some romance thrown in for readers who like a little of that in their books.

There were many things that I appreciated about THE MAP OF LOST MEMORIES that depending on when you ask me, I would name a different one. For example, I thought the characters were extremely interesting as were their interactions with each other. I also loved the descriptions of the various settings -- it was very apparent to me that the author had personal experience with them and did very thorough research. And I thought Irene's entire quest was to find the copper scrolls was extremely well constructed. However, what really stood out to me was how much this novel managed to cover outside of just the suspense aspect. This book touched upon art history and the cut-throat business of artifacts, Cambodia and the effects of colonialism on the country, Communism and revolutionary politics, and even women's rights.

Because of all of these things, I believe THE MAP OF LOST MEMORIES would make for a very interesting book club discussion. I wasn't able to find a formal reading guide, but I honestly don't think you'd need one. Besides having many topics to discuss, you could also serve some really interesting Chinese and Cambodian foods.

THE MAP OF LOST MEMORIES is a very well written novel. Recommended for fans of suspense and thrillers!

Thanks to the author for providing a copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


Hillary said...

This sounds like a book I would like to read. Putting it on my wishlist.

bermudaonion said...

Wow! I think the art history and artifacts business aspects of the book would really be good!

Kim said...

Dear Julie,
I can't thank you enough for this gracious review of my novel. Just to let your readers know, I do have a book group guide to send out upon request. They simply need to contact me through my website: Also, the guide will be included in the paperback edition that is coming out this summer. All my best, Kim

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I have that happen so often - I put down a book and then for some reason am convinced to pick it up again and am happy it happened!