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The Map of Lost Memories    by Kim Fay order for
Map of Lost Memories
by Kim Fay
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Kim Fay's The Map of Lost Memories combines the 1925 exploits of a female Indiana Jones (her heroine Irene Blum who has always had a 'passion for Khmer studies') with a thought provoking subtext on the ethics of taking historical artefacts from the lands in which they are rooted for display in Western museums.

Irene Blum tells us that 'During the Khmer's reign, from the ninth to the fifteenth century, they ultimately commanded a region of more than one thousand temples that spread from Siam into Laos and down to the South China sea. Their bas-reliefs held up to the Greeks' and Persians', and they were masters of engineering with their massive system of public waterworks ... they built the largest temple in the world, Angkor Wat, which alone encompassed five hundred acres. A million people had once lived there.'

Irene spent years building the collection of Seattle's Brooke Museum of Oriental Art and her boss, Professor Howard, supported her ambition to replace him when he retired. So she was devastated when the museum's board of trustees hired a male outsider. But then the powerful and wealthy Henry Simms (her father's oldest friend and a 'formidable collector', now dying) asked her to go to Cambodia on a treasure hunt - seeking ten copper scrolls on which are inscribed the history of the Khmer civilization!

So Irene left for Shanghai, seeking the aid of Simone Merlin, who grew up in Cambodia and reads fluently in Pali and Khmer. Simone and her husband Roger had been working tirelessly for years in support of the Chinese Communist party. But Roger is abusive and does not want to let Simone go. Violence erupts and Irene and Simone depart abruptly for Saigon, where they are joined by Simone's first love, Louis Lafont, assistant curator of the Conservation d'Angkor, and by adventurer Marc Rafferty, to whom Irene is drawn.

The four face different challenges in Cambodia - Simone's addiction; the discovery of connections in their pasts; a protective commissaire; hostile tribesmen; and disagreements amongst themselves about what to do with the treasure if and when found. Their great adventure changes each and every one of them, especially Irene. The Map of Lost Memories is a wonderful read, thought provoking, rich in history, and filled with adventure and hints of romance - highly recommended.

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