L’Inconnue de la Seine: Guillaume Musso

Published by Calmann-Levy, 2022, 512 pages.

A young woman is fished out of the Seine, very nearly dead. She has no identification on her person, so the police do a DNA test to see if they can find out who she is. The results are startling: according to the test, the mysterious woman is the celebrated pianist Milena Bergman, who was supposed to have died in a plane crash over a year ago. The woman is taken to the infirmerie de la préfecture de police de Paris (the Paris police infirmary). But before the police can question her, she disappears.

Capitaine Roxane Montchrestien of the Paris police has been shunted off to the Bureau for Unconventional Affairs (Bureau des affaires non conventionnelles, BANC), a service set up to look into strange occurrences that the normal Police Judiciare cannot deal with. However, as Roxane’s colleague puts it, the BANC is now just a budget line: it has not had any new cases and is about to be closed down. Roxane is going to be the last person to work there. She will be replacing commissaire Marc Batailley, a veteran police officer who is now in hospital after a bad fall.

Roxane takes over the case of the mysterious Milena, dubbed l’inconnue de la Seine (the unknown woman of the Seine).[1] She tracks down Milena’s partner, who as it happens, is Batailley’s son, Raphaël.

Things begin to get complicated. Raphaël tells Roxane that he had seen Milena in his garden, asking to be let in. But before he could open the door, she was abducted by a figure dressed as the god Pan, wearing a skin and horns. Roxanne discovers that commissaire Batailley had been researching the myth of Pan. It is possible that Milena, who by some miracle had survived the plane crash (which seems fairly improbable), has been abducted by a fringe group that worships Pan.

There are plenty of twists and turns in the plot until the final reveal, which is satisfying, though slightly over the top.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable whodunnit. Guillaume Musso is a very popular author in France, and his books have been translated into several languages. There is no English translation for this book yet, but given the author’s popularity, it is probably just a matter of time. Meanwhile, the book’s various translations can be found on Musso’s website, where you can also find several of his books that are available in English.

[1] In the late 1800s, a young woman’s body was pulled from the Seine. Apparently the pathologist was so taken by her beauty, he made a death mask of her face. The mask was copied and became popular among the Parisian Bohemian circle. The woman was known as l’inconnue de la Seine.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s