The Same River Twice
The Same River Twice
Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307272737, 384pp.
Publication Date: May 11, 2010
When Odile Mével, a French clothing designer, agrees to smuggle ceremonial May Day banners out of the former Soviet Union, she thinks she’s trading a few days’ inconvenience for a quick thirty thousand francs. Yet when she returns home to Paris to deliver the contraband to Turner, the American art expert behind this scheme, her fellow courier (previously a stranger) has disappeared, her apartment is ransacked for no discernible reason, and she has already set in motion a chain of events that will put those closest to her in jeopardy.
Odile’s American husband, Max, has no inkling of her clandestine moonlighting. An independent filmmaker whose recent taste of commercial success has left him at a crossroads in his career, he by chance makes a surreal discovery: unauthorized copies of his first film, with a technically expert, and completely different, ending. Baffled as to who would have either the motive or the means to commit such intellectual piracy, he investigates this fraud and soon runs up against the Russian mafia and, possibly, a human-trafficking operation. At the same time, he is becoming ever more preoccupied by his next artistic project: filming the actual lives of people intimate to him and Odile, a Dutchman and his American girlfriend who are meticulously restoring their century-old houseboat on the Seine—an endeavor that has fervent meaning for both Max and his subjects. And as if this weren’t excitement enough, he begins to suspect that Odile is having an affair.
Marital deceptions deepen and multiply even as the details of Odile’s and Max’s escapades appear ever more connected. The couple must now confront exactly what they are willing to do for the sake of their marriage and, indeed, their lives. Meanwhile, Turner, too, has a great many irons in the fire, which suddenly threatens to burn out of control.
Hugely atmospheric, perceptively written, and grippingly suspenseful, The Same River Twice is a page-turner that also poses questions of existential importance. What is the nature of inevitability? What agency do we have over our destinies? And is a different ending ever possible?
“Intriguing….Mooney writes sophisticated, unstrained prose…his erotic scenes still pulsate [and] some of the best passages lay the art world open like a gleaming pomegranate.” —Karen R. Long, The Plain Dealer
“This lushly cinematic mystery…is a good beach book for the highbrow set—those who take their thrillers with a dash of art history.” —James Cihlar, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Ted Mooney has had one of the most interesting and ambitious literary careers of the modern period.” —Sam Tanenhaus
“Dazzling…philosophical entertainment doubling as a riveting, unconventional thriller [and] rendered with such painterly depth that the luminous city [of Paris] nearly becomes a character…The web Mooney so expertly weaves…concludes in shimmering, charged fashion.” —Carlo Wolff, The Boston Globe
“As Ted Mooney proves in his nuanced literary thriller The Same River Twice, it is perfectly possible to find a novel that has it all…A joy to discover…Odile [is] a magnificent character.” —Danielle Trussoni, The New York Times Book Review
“A rich, multilayered, powerfully unsettling novel [that] succeeds on a number of different levels: as a page-turning mystery in which conceptual art meets the scientific vanguard of stem-cell research and as a meditation on the trusts and betrayals of marriage, on truth and illusion and the relation of each to artistic creativity….The whole comes together in a morally ambiguous manner that seems equally surprising, disturbing and inevitable. ‘Paris is a small place,’ says more than one character, as the reader discovers just how small the city—and the artistic community and the world of international crime—can be.” —Kirkus, starred review
“This tour de force [is] a taut and lively literary thriller that mingles the worlds of Paris and New York art collectors and filmmakers with a seamy and violent criminal underworld as it explores the nature of art, fate, and inevitability.” —Library Journal
“Ted Mooney has written the impossible—a smart page-turning thriller that doubles as a darkly luminous literary jewel. The Same River Twice marries art smuggling (Soviet banners, no less) and border crossings, Paris and films with two endings, the Russian mafia and houseboats on the Seine, wives, lovers, daughters and disappearances, all bound up in secrets that could change the world. Read this stunning novel once for the pleasure of the hunt, and twice for the treasure between the lines: the pounding of the human heart, the intricate tick-tock as the gears of destiny accelerate. Mooney is a magician, and his new book sparkles like a mysterious city.” —Jayne Anne Phillips
“Ted Mooney’s The Same River Twice is a superbly written and wonderfully paced novel, rich with mystery and foreign intrigue, that succeeds as both a page turner and a work of literary fiction.” —Oscar Hijuelos
“All too often literary excellence and suspense coexist in inverse proportion within the pages of novels. But The Same River Twice is that very rare beast—a literary thriller. I would have loved the book for the limpid beauty of the prose and the quirky sophistication of the characters, but my infatuation turned to compulsion as I became obsessed with unraveling the intricate skeins of conspiracy in which Ted Mooney ensnares his Parisians. Patricia Highsmith couldn’t have done it better.” —Jay McInerney