Thrillers centered on the search for some ancient artifact have been popping up with dizzying regularity ever since Dan Brown made his name (and millions) with them. Seattle author Kim Fay’s first novel is certainly the tale of a daring search: a search for a valuable artifact, yes, but also one for self-worth, redemption and understanding.

Irene Blum arrives in 1925 Shanghai on a mission to recover a set of priceless copper scrolls detailing the history of Cambodia’s ancient Khmer civilization, which have long been believed to be lost. She seeks the help of Khmer expert and temple robber Simone Merlin. But the journey isn’t an easy one. Simone’s domineering husband is in the way of their mission, a dangerous jungle awaits and the world of French-colonized Cambodia is full of hidden agendas and very little trust.

Fay has already made a name for herself with award-winning Asian travel writing, and her first foray into fiction is proof both of her expertise in and love for the region. The prose of The Map of Lost Memories is full of lush details, from the elegance of Shanghai to the musty damp of the Cambodian jungle—but more importantly, it’s packed with the kind of drama that many other novels of its kind lack. Thrilling and ambitious, this is a book to get lost in, a book that homes in on the human drama of the quest and never lets go.

The Map of Lost Memories is a rich debut—perfect not just for lovers of historical fiction, but for lovers of unusual journeys filled with powerful revelations.

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