Dear Mr. M

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In every work of fiction, you’ll find a disclaimer informing you that the story you’re about to read is a product of the author’s imagination and that any resemblance to real life persons or events is entirely coincidental. But Herman Koch has a way of inciting reactions to even the simplest statements

My favorite part of Koch’s newest book, Dear Mr. M, comes right at the very beginning, in the epigraph. It reads, “Anyone who thinks he recognizes himself or others in one or more characters in this book is probably right.  Amsterdam is a real city in the Netherlands.” Dear Mr. M follows the story of M, a once celebrated, now fading author whose biggest success was a suspense novel based on the real life disappearance of a high school history teacher. The novel not only put M’s name on the best seller list, but also forever changed the lives of the two teenaged students who were the last to see their teacher before he disappeared. The students say they have no insight into the disappearance, but M’s readers believe that his fiction must reveal hidden truths which leaves the question of foul play hanging over them for years to come.

Koch’s talent lies in creating scenarios of human failings designed to challenge his readers and help them to realize that human nature is not always straightforward or righteous. People make questionable decisions based in murky motivations, and people are not just characters in a book. After all, Amsterdam is a real city in the Netherlands.

Dear Mr. M

Once a celebrated writer, M had his greatest success with a suspense novel based on a real-life disappearance of a high school history teacher who had had an affair with one of his students.

From alternating points of view, where no one is to be trusted, Herman Koch weaves together an intricate tale of a writer in decline, a teenage couple in love, a missing teacher, and a single book that entwines all of their fates.