Book Title: Dear Mr M
Author: Herman Koch
Genres: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Fiction
Date Read: 07/29/16
Pub Date: 09/06/17
Once a celebrated writer, M’s greatest success came with a suspense novel based on a real-life disappearance. The book was called The Reckoning, and it told the story of Jan Landzaat, a history teacher who went missing one winter after his brief affair with Laura, his stunning pupil. Jan was last seen at the holiday cottage where Laura was staying with her new boyfriend. Upon publication, M.’s novel was a bestseller, one that marked his international breakthrough.
That was years ago, and now M.’s career is almost over as he fades increasingly into obscurity. But not when it comes to his bizarre, seemingly timid neighbor who keeps a close eye on him. Why?
From various perspectives, Herman Koch tells the dark tale of a writer in decline, a teenage couple in love, a missing teacher, and a single book that entwines all of their fates. Thanks to The Reckoning, supposedly a work of fiction, everyone seems to be linked forever, until something unexpected spins the “story” off its rails.
With racing tension, sardonic wit, and a world-renowned sharp eye for human failings, Herman Koch once again spares nothing and no one in his gripping new novel, a barbed tour de force suspending readers in the mysterious literary gray space between fact and fiction, promising to keep them awake at night, and justly paranoid in the merciless morning.
This is my third novel by Herman Koch and it was simultaneously my most/least favorite. Weird right? Let me explain. The premise of this book was by far the one that intrigued me the most; when I first read the blurb for this book I felt it had potential to be in my Top 10 for the year! It was off to a fantastic start; the first 25% was a little confusing but extremely suspenseful and i just couldn’t put it down. After the initial euphoria wore off, it seemed to lose a little traction as it was drawing every plot point out to the nth degree. I kept pushing through, thinking it was just a lag and would pick back up again, but then it just kept slowing down to the point I just wanted the painful feeling of trudging through molasses to end. While I was pleased with the ending and the story in general, I couldn’t get past how unnecessarily long this one was. The author’s books feature unlikable characters with plots that are heavy and depressing, so I feel to draw out the story took away some of the power behind it.
Again, I actually really enjoyed the story; the despicable characters with no redeeming traits have never bothered me, but it felt like it was uncomfortably boring to reach the end. It was so uncomfortable I almost put it down and was ready to mark it a DNF. I guess I am grateful that I finished it, but if I had to do over again I probably would pass. As I have thoroughly enjoyed the author’s previous two novels, I will be on the lookout for his next work all the same. This quite possibly could have been a flop for me, meaning the problem lies within myself as a reader and not in the writing of the book. I’m ok with shouldering that responsibility. If you’ve enjoyed his previous work and love all the detail that I felt unnecessary, I think you should give this a try. The actual plot was his best yet and gives me hope that his next novel could be his best to date.
*Thanks Crown Publishing for providing my copy; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.