In Kim Fay’s novel The Map of Lost Memories (Ballantine, Aug 21), the protagonist, Irene Blum, leads a ragtag group of misfits on a trek stretching from Seattle to Shanghai and the jungles of Cambodia, hunting for the lost history of the Khmer empire, which ruled Southeast Asia for over 600 years. There are enough twists to make M. Night Shyamalan do a double take—Blum’s mother did what?

A scholar thrust into action, Blum is more museum docent than tomb raider, and the action more puzzle solving than whip cracking. As personal, political, and cultural histories intertwine, a mesh of hidden motives and uneasy alliances creates a sense of looming disaster. Although Fay’s prose falls short of creating an immersive setting prior to the expedition’s arrival in Cambodia, the characters’ emotions and actions are richly imagined.

It’s obvious that this Seattleite, who’s lived in Vietnam and traveled throughout Asia, has a passion for the region. And luckily Map, Fay’s first foray into fiction—she’s authored cookbooks in the past—hints at the possibility of more Blum adventures.

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