The novel begins in 1925 Shanghai with Irene Blum finding out she will not get the curator’s position at the Brooke Museum of Oriental Art she has wanted for as long as she can remember. The reason she loses the position is that she is a woman and the world of museum curation and treasure hunting is a man’s world.
When Irene is approached by her long-time mentor about the opportunity to hunt for lost treasure in Cambodia from the Khmer civilization, she jumps at the opportunity. Irene assembles a team of experts to steal ten copper scrolls not seen in more than 700 years. With a plan in place to force the museum’s directors to make her the curator when she returns with the scrolls, Irene quickly discovers her expedition is destined to face challenges every step of the way. Little does Irene realize that her journey will bring her in contact with dangerous individuals from corrupt politicians to back-street opium dens, and locations as diverse as Shanghai’s dark alleys to the wilds of the Cambodian jungle. By the end of her journey, she discovers that what she thought she wanted may not be her real reason for facing the struggle at all.
The book is not a typical murder mystery, but had elements strong enough to qualify it for the Edgar nomination. At times, Fay has a tendency to over-explain, which gives the book a literary feel. But, as the story progresses, this becomes a book filled with rich descriptions of diverse characters and dramatic locations. Its historical references are sure to appeal to history buffs or those who are merely curious about this distant part of the world. “The Map of Lost Memories” paints a picture that readers won’t soon forget.