Mr. M is a famed author who is struggling with coming up with new best-seller books as he ages. He has a significantly younger wife and enjoys having her on his arm at events. His best-selling book, Payback, is based loosely on a true story of a vanishing of teacher Jan Landzaat. Landzaat had an affair with a student (Laura) who moved on with a fellow student (Herman) and left him behind with his marriage, career, and ego on the rocks.
Herman is a tall, gangly, teen who is obsessed with making videos based on the human reaction to startling scenarios. For example: the reaction of a teacher when a student has a seizure at her desk. He also is patiently manipulative when he has a girlfriend in order to get closer to his heart’s true interest, Laura, which everyone in school knows is having an affair with Mr. Landzaat. Years later, he lives in an apartment above Mr. M, who based a best-selling novel on his and Laura’s story, and slowly sneaks into his life.
Dear Mr. M is a novel heralded as a psychological thriller and it started off in that manner. This was the first novel by Herman Koch that I have had the opportunity to read. I have been familiar with his name and I had already learned that he is known for creating detestable characters. He did not disappoint in that aspect, nor did he disappoint with the surprising ending. The main characters (Herman and Mr. M) are both narcissistic, as is revealed through each of their narrations that switch several times throughout the book. Unfortunately, the speed from the launch of the book stalls as soon as the first perspective changes from “H” to “M”. The only time that it moved fairly quickly was in H’s perspective. The switching perspectives are further complicated by flashbacks. There were several times that I had to go back to previous chapters to be reminded of events or characters.
The characters do have depth and the way in which all of the story lines finally connect is impressive. It would have been a 5-star book, in my opinion, had it not been for the slow and verbose pace when it is in M’s perspective.
Items of potential sensitivity: there is foul language, stalking, and mild violence.
Please note: an Advanced Reader Copy was generously provided for free from LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.