In the late autumn of 1889, the body of an unknown woman appeared on the banks of the Seine River in Paris. It was taken to the city morgue behind Notre Dame and put on display for a month, according to protocol. The eerie beauty of the young woman’s expression attracted crowds but no claimant, and so, before the body was dispatched, a mold was taken of the face, yielding a mask which was to become one of the most celebrated cult objects of the 20th century.
Set during the final days of the Paris expo of 1889, Brooks Hansen’s captivating TheUnknown Woman of the Seine sets out to solve the mystery of who the woman was behind the mask. In charge of that investigation is a former Gendarme and recent prisoner of war just returned from Tonkin, China. Emile Brassard is on his way to Paris, determined to reclaim his place in La Force when he crosses paths with an enigmatic and unnamed young maiden and her gypsy wagon. Detecting villainy, and bent on proving himself to his former superiors, Brassard tracks her into the city and observes from the shadows as, with clear but mysterious purpose, she wends her way into the orbit of several savory and unsavory characters—an Artist, an Impresario, a Madame, a Countess, and one Disciple even—each of whom sees in her some opportunity for profit or redemption; any one of whom may therefore be responsible for her sudden and unexplained disappearance.
Brassard’s chase will lead him on a grand tour of the city’s lushest and seamiest venues, from its highest spires down into its darkest catacombs, and past a gallery of equally diverse crimes—the moral, the political, the maniacal. By the end of this enchanting and ominous journey, he will learn the stunning truth of the unknown woman’s true identity, her past and present, but not before unearthing the equally disturbing truth about himself, who he has been, and who he must become.
Brooks Hansen is a novelist, screenwriter, illustrator, and teacher. His novels—The Monsters of St. Helena, Perlman’s Ordeal, The Chess Garden, and Boone (co-authored with Nick Davis) were all New York Times Notable Books. The Chess Garden was also selected as a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year. He has written two books for young readers, both of which he illustrated. He received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in 2005. Brooks Hansen was born in New York City. He lives in Carpinteria, CA with his wife and two children.