In this suspense-filled novel, the inadvertent release of counterfeit bills into general circulation is linked to the disappearance of a husband, wife, and daughter. The story is narrated by “real-life” novelist Shin’ichi Tsuda, purportedly telling of his role in those events while also revealing the novel-within-a-novel he is writing based on them.
Now in his forties, Tsuda once enjoyed great success as a writer, winning the prestigious Naoki Prize and frequenting bestseller lists, but since releasing his tenth title he has fallen out of favor with publishers and been reduced to writing entirely on spec, with no assurance that his work will ultimately reach the public. Nearly broke, he finds himself languishing in a regional city working as a driver for an escort service. One night Tsuda is attacked by two local yakuza toughs and told to leave town. Early that morning, before dawn, Tsuda had run into bar owner Hideyoshi Kōchi at a doughnut shop and exchanged a few words with him, but by the following day Hideyoshi and his wife Nanami, together with their daughter Akane, have abruptly vanished. At the same time, a young postal worker named Hareyama and a prostitute named Hideko Takamine go missing.
Fourteen months after these disappearances, an elderly friend of Tsuda who owns a secondhand bookstore dies. Although Tsuda had been neglecting his friend, the man leaves behind a small travel case for him, which turns out to contain four children’s books, including Peter Pan, and ?34,030,000 in cash, all in ?10,000 notes. Tsuda uses one of the notes to pay for a haircut without incident, but when the barber lends that same note to a woman who tries to use it at a pachinko parlor, it’s revealed to be a counterfeit bill. Tsuda wonders if that means the other 3402 notes are also counterfeit and he should dispose of them. He has no idea why the old bookseller left him such a large sum to begin with.
Some two months later, the barber warns Tsuda that the local yakuza boss Kenjirō Kurata is looking for him. Tsuda flees to Tokyo, where he finds a job tending bar, and begins writing a novel based on the two incidents, relying on his memory of what he saw and heard. It is as this novel takes shape that the mysterious events in the regional city are gradually unraveled. The “pigeon” of the title refers to the high-quality counterfeit bills Kurata produced. Kurata and Kōchi had long been sworn friends, but a slip-up on Kōchi’s part combines with a number of unfortunate coincidences to send three of Kurata’s counterfeits out into the wild. It is not until after he has given the travel case to Kurata that Tsuda realizes that 3,400 of the bills are genuine.
In spite of the complex and convoluted plot, the author proves himself a true master of the page-turner, challenging readers to put the book down as he offers a tantalizing glimpse into the creative process of the fiction writer in this masterwork of both mystery and intellectual fascination.