This is the story of a lost queen, a lost treasure, and four Chicago friends with a surprising connection to both.
Early in the tenth century in an area we know as Vietnam, a legendary queen of the Champa (Shampa) people flees a conquering army forcing her to escape west to a hidden, paradise-valley refuge. She leaves the remaining wealth of her kingdom hidden in a cave near a Cham temple.
During the Vietnam War Era Jack Largent is working as an Air Force photographer when he witnesses the aftermath of a devastating rocket attack just off of the Phan Rang Air Base and near a Cham temple that kills a dozen Security Police airmen.
By the 1980s, the indigenous Champa people are scattered and mixed among the many nations of Southeast Asia. Their queen has been missing for a thousand years since the time of the legendary Queen Dau Te Po and the fall of the Champa Kingdom. The Champa people have an ancient, sub-conscious and compelling need to serve and obey their queen, which has left them unfulfilled for centuries.
In 1986, in Chicago, Catherine Marsh, an investigative, television features reporter and owner of NearNorth Productions, visits a traveling Asian art show at the Art Institute. She meets a former rescue pilot from the Vietnam War, and hears a rumor about a cover-up concerning a rocket attack killing a dozen United States Security Police Airmen near a temple close to the Phan Rang Air Base. At the same time, the source tells her of a rumor concerning an ancient treasure thought to be hidden somewhere nearby. Through her investigations she has already learned about the wealth and rise to power of an Asian despot named Colonel Minh who was the Province Chief of the area encompassing the Air Base and the nearby temple when South Vietnam fell. She combines these nuggets of information into the possibility of a blockbuster story and decides to follow up on it.
Catherine meets Jack Largent who is now a successful advertising photographer with a studio in Chicago. When she learns he was a photographer in Vietnam, she asks him about the ‘massacre’ near the Cham temple. She is surprised to discover that he was there and attempts to enlist him in her pursuit of information, but Jack is reluctant to discuss with her what happened during that incident.
Colonel Minh was a corrupt Province Chief involved in smuggling drugs out of the country, and black market items in, during the Vietnam War. He twice intercepted Vietnamese gold shipments and secreted them out of the country to his estate in Ubon, Thailand, as South Vietnam fell at the end of the war. Now he is a major player and powerful businessman and it is his ambition to rule all of Southeast Asia. Colonel Minh knows of the compelling devotion of the indigenous Champa people for their queen and believes if he can find this lost queen, he will have a ready-made and motivated army to lead a revolution to rule Southeast Asia.
Jack’s involvement becomes complicated when Catherine has an affair with his assistant, Kelly, and he falls in love with a young Asian woman, Mai Sambath, a Vietnamese refugee, who is also a production assistant of Catherine’s. Their romances are genuine but become more involved as they take up living together and their destinies intertwine. Mai professes her undying love to Jack but avoids any serious discussion of marriage because she feels there is something important she still has to do with her life. While working on Catherine’s investigation of Colonel Minh, Mai, discovers through an associate of his, Su Ling, that she is the long-lost queen and rightful heir to the Champa throne. Su Ling being of Champa heritage swears her undying loyalty and obedience to Mai. But Mai is shocked by something else she discovers, and she asks Su Ling to help arrange for her to get together with Colonel Minh.
In 1989, The temple site and nearby scene of the rocket attack, the legend of the lost queen and her treasure, and the story of the depraved Colonel Minh’s theft of gold, necessitates that Catherine bring her investigation along with Mai and Jack to Vietnam.
As a further proof that she is the queen and rightful heir to the Champa throne, Mai finds the hidden treasure near the Cham temple fulfilling that part of the legend. But beyond that, Mai still has a secret plan, and is cooperative when Colonel Minh kidnaps her and takes her away to his hidden paradise-valley headquarters in Cambodia.
Colonel Minh marries Mai and presents her to the Champa faithful as the return of the legendary Queen Dau Te Po. He calls on all of the Champa people to reunite with her at Siem Kulea, the traditional ancient Champa valley in northern Cambodia. He plans a revolution to take over Southeast Asia and restore the Champa kingdom with him as the new king. Thousands answer the call and come to the remote valley to eagerly serve their queen.
What is Mai’s secret and why does she willingly marry the vile Colonel Minh? What does she do when Jack shows up trying to save her? Why was a body found buried along with the lost treasure in the cave, and what is the important secret hidden within the four treasure chests? How does Mai’s secret plan lead the four Chicago friends into mortal danger?
These are only a few of the many intriguing questions presented as the Chicago friends come to the hidden paradise valley of Siem Kulea in Northern Cambodia and are confronted with a bizarre tenth-century culture, lifestyle and traditions.
Actual historical events and good character development give the narrative a strong foundation that holds the reader’s interest. Mortally perilous situations and surprising twists lend to a story that reviewers reported on Amazon was “a page-turner”, “suspenseful”, and “sexy”.