A thriller set in Paris involving a clothing designer, an art dealer and an independent filmmaker – sounds like an entertaining read, doesn't it? And it was. Ted Mooney's The Same River Twice sets the plot in motion on page one as Odile, a French fashion designer looking for extra cash and perhaps a little excitement, smuggles Soviet era May Day flags out of Moscow for an enterprising art dealer. She neglects to tell her her husband Max about the caper, but after all he's busy with his mid-life crisis and his cinéma vérité about a young couple restoring a houseboat on the Seine. What's the harm?
As you can probably guess, complications ensue. The story has classic thriller elements – an enigmatic Russian businessman, a couple of truly malevolent thugs, a mysterious firebombing, not one but two beautiful, calculating young women, even an ecstasy party in the sewers of Paris.
But unlike in most thrillers, there's more going on than just a fast-moving plot. Mooney creates some three-dimensional characters who do not fall easily into 'good guy/bad guy' categories. They are far more cerebral and self-reflective than standard thriller types, and they examine such weighty questions as the meaning of love and the importance of art, even as they dodge thugs and plot escapes through the streets of Paris.
There are plenty of plot twists, and on reflection some of them may have been a little forced, but I enjoyed the ride.