Guest Blogger Terry Ambrose “Interview with Edgar-nominee Kim Fay”


Kim Fay’s novel, “The Map of Lost Memories,” was one of only six Edgar nominations for Best First Novel in 2013. The book is about a young American woman who embarks on a quest to find Cambodia’s lost history and uncovers secrets that will solve the mysteries of her own past. However, the book does not fall easily into one category or genre. According to Fay, “Some readers have been disappointed because it was not what they expected. It was originally marketed as a historical thriller, which it definitely is not. The book is certainly historical, and while it contains an adventure element, it is more of a literary mystery that focuses on character development and an intricate plot rather than pell-mell action. This novel is a slow ride through a little-known time in a long-forgotten place with a mystery that unfolds at a pace that comes naturally to the 1920s era in which the book is set.”

Map of Lost Memories

“The Map of Lost Memories” is definitely a multilayered story intended to accomplish more than one purpose. In fact, said Fay, “This book has dozens of influences, but there are two that are at the heart of it. The first is my grandfather. A Navy sailor in Asia in the 1930s, he often told my sister and me ‘bedtime stories’ about his days in the Far East. This sparked my fascination with the region—a fascination I pursued after college, traveling to Southeast Asia and finally moving to live in Vietnam for four years in the 1990s. While in Vietnam I came across Silk Roads, the account of Andre and Clara Malraux, a young French couple who looted a Cambodian temple in the 1920s. The instant I read their tale, ‘The Map of Lost Memories’ came into existence. The Malrauxs are the inspiration for the Merlins in my novel, and while my fictional story diverges greatly from the true one, it owes a great deal to the actions and mindset of this couple.”

Some of the issues addressed in the book include a question of who would be the best caretaker of the Khmer temples and their history? According to Fay, “During the 1920s, most foreigners believed that this job belonged to outsiders, since the Cambodians were deemed incompetent, lazy and all of the other pejoratives terms that colonists heaped on locals around the world at that time to justify their takeovers.”

As the book evolved, Fay realized that her interest in the area needed to be tempered to keep the story moving. She took the old adage, “kill your darlings,” to heart. She said, “I had entire passages that sounded like essays because I wanted to share certain things I’d discovered with readers. But a novelist has to make choices: select details that matter to the story and weave them in, or ditch them. I probably have 200 pages of ‘ditched’ details.”

Even when eliminating details to keep a story moving, there are others that add depth to the story such as the one Fay described about Waterman pens. “I came across a warning in an old travelogue to beware the counterfeit Waterman pens in the Chinatown district of Saigon—in 1925! What a wonderful detail. The trick, though, is to meld such a detail seamlessly into the story.”

Because of her fascination with the area, Fay was more interested in the historical aspects of the story than writing a mystery. But, as a long-time mystery fan, she seems to have ended up in the right place. “From the very first Nancy Drew I read as a kid, I became a mystery fan, and my favorite writer of all time is Graham Greene, the master of understated suspense. While I did not set out to write a mystery with ‘The Map of Lost Memories,’ I was not surprised when the mystery elements began weaving their way in. This came naturally to me. And needless to say, when the mystery side of my story was recognized with an Edgar nomination, I was thrilled and honored.”

One might expect being one of six nominees for the Best First Novel Edgar would make it difficult for Fay to write another mystery. Not so, she said. “Rather than adding pressure, the nomination has given me a new sense of freedom. I’m deep into work on a new novel, ‘Last Night on the Saigon River,’ and feel that I’ve been given permission to delve deeper into its suspense murder mystery aspects.”

Fay also said that the nomination has helped her better define what it is she’ll write in the future. “The nomination also woke the secret dreamer in me. For a while I’ve been surreptitiously plotting out a mystery series, and now that I know I’ll have the support of wonderful groups like Mystery Writers of America and Sisters and Crime, I plan to take it out of hiding and bring it to life.”

Book Summary:

In 1925 the international treasure-hunting scene is a man’s world, and no one understands this better than Irene Blum, who is passed over for a coveted museum curatorship because she is a woman. Seeking to restore her reputation, she sets off from Seattle in search of a temple believed to house the lost history of Cambodia’s ancient Khmer civilization. But, her quest to make the greatest archaeological discovery of the century soon becomes a quest for her family’s secrets. Embracing the colorful and corrupt world of colonial Asia in the early 1900s,  “The Map of Lost Memories”  takes readers into a forgotten era where nothing is as it seems. As Irene travels through Shanghai’s lawless back streets and Saigon’s opium-filled lanes, she joins forces with a Communist temple robber and an intriguing nightclub owner with a complicated past. What they bring to light deep within the humidity-soaked Cambodian jungle does more than change history. It ultimately solves the mysteries of their own lives.

More Information:Kim Fay

Learn more about Kim Fay and her Edgar-nominated novel on her website at

Terry Ambrose writes both mysteries and suspense novels. In addition to his two different series, he also writes a column for about real-life scams and cons. Learn more about him on his website at


Author Photo: Kim Fay  Book Cover: Ballantine Books (August 21, 2012)

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