Dear Mr. M

Herman Koch has carved out a niche as the Dutch literary bad-boy. In The Dinner, he skewered the idle rich. He followed that with Summer House with Swimming Pool, which cleverly unmasked corruption in medicine. With Dear Mr. M, Koch takes apart the world of writers, books and publishing in a funny, metafiction mystery about the unsolved disappearance of a high school teacher in a tawdry love triangle with two students.

Aging Mr. M has written a string of midlist World War II novels after a surprise bestselling mystery based on news reports of the teacher/student scandal. His reputation is on the skids when he is confronted by Herman, the teen suspected of murdering his history teacher. Herman stalks Mr. M--with letters, by shadowing his travels, even by moving into the apartment below him. Mercilessly ridiculing Mr. M's writing ("You take a bite and start chewing, but it doesn't taste like much"), Herman follows him to bookstore signings, library readings, and an award ceremony for writers "whose greatest similarity was that none of them had long to live." Dear Mr. M not only provides Koch with a platform to whale on writers, but it is also a story steeped in the abysmal culture of high school, where he takes on teachers who represent "a herd of an extremely mediocre species." Koch can be challenging, but he is always rewarding. As Mr. M muses about his profession, "A reader reads a book. If it's a good book, he forgets himself. That's all a book has to do." --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

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