x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

The Map of Lost Memories: hackneyed plot, but stellar setting

An archaeologist emarks on a treasure hunt in the Cambodian jungle.

Map of Lost Memories
Map of Lost Memories

The Map of Lost Memories
Kim Fay
Hodder & Stoughton

Set in the mid-1920s, US author Kim Fay's debut novel tells the tale of feisty archaeologist Irene Blum, who, after being shunted aside for a curator's job in a Seattle museum, decides to embark on a treasure hunt in the jungles of Cambodia.

During a stop-off in Shanghai, Blum enlists Simone Merlin, a brilliant but mercurial, opium-addicted adventurer, and Marc Rafferty, a dashing nightclub owner, to help her track down a trove of ancient copper scrolls that promise to reveal the truth behind the collapse of the vast Khmer Empire in the 15th century.

Yes, this storyline does have a familiar ring to it. From Indiana Jones to The Da Vinci Code, thrusting a buttoned-up academic type into a treacherous adventure is about as predictable a set up as there is.

But despite its hackneyed plot and characters, the novel does have some saving graces. Firstly, Fay clearly has an affinity for the region, expertly evoking the exoticism and rumblings of anti-colonial rage of the era.

Secondly, she displays an exhaustive knowledge of the Khmer Dynasty and the architecture of its mysterious temples. If reading this book doesn't impel you to visit Angkor Wat, then nothing will.