Yancy is back in beautiful Italy where he studied several years ago, this time as a visiting professor at the very same university. He is no longer the young, naïve student he was, but instead a person who is hardened—distant and untrusting of love. There’s a reason for that and Yancy will not forget it, and if he wants to be invited back, then making sure he doesn’t become involved with any student is wise. This evening, he is listening to his favorite music station when a news alert comes across relating the death of a man whose identity remains unknown. The only clue is a letter found in the deceased’s pocket, which is to be read on air in an attempt to drum up anyone who might know the man’s identity. The letter begins with the salutation “piccione”—pigeon in Italian. Yancy is startled at the familiar nickname. That was what Rudi had called him; could the dead man be the lover that had broken Yancy’s heart ten years ago?
Richard Natale weaves a fascinating character study inside a mystery with his novel, Pigeon. I think the biggest strength of this story is the way in which Yancy evolves from a wounded, closed off, and rather cynical person to one that can finally embrace love again—one that begins to live again. With the possible death of the one man who shredded his heart years ago and who was the catalyst for the Yancy we meet in the beginning of the story, we are thrown into the past and how they met and the tangled way in which they came together.
It is difficult to relate much of this story in a review, mainly because wrapped up in a discussion of the merits of the book are way too many spoilers. Suffice it to say that the real strength of Natale’s writing lay in the way he paints his characters with such a thorough and emotional brush. I love how Yancy becomes so much more than how he started out a decade before. He is slowly transformed, even while Rudi’s influence remains and still haunts Yancy, molding him into the man he is currently today. It is Yancy who will help the Detective Lancellotti solve the mystery. Along the way, he rediscovers himself and how to trust and love again and it is magical to read.
Perhaps my only criticism, other than the feeling that the story took a while to really get going, is the idea that the investigation portion of the novel seemed rather thin. But still, this really is Yancy’s story and not so much about the dead man who may or may not be Rudi. Along with the glut of backstory at the start—many characters are introduced and that is why I mentioned that it felt slow at the beginning—these two pieces are not as well done as watching Yancy evolve. Still, I must admit every person we meet is important to the story overall.
In the end, the author ties up every plot piece and resolves things quite well. His writing style is a bit flowery and sometimes slows the pace of the story, yet I can’t dispute the descriptions of Italy made me hunger to go there one day. Pigeon is a very satisfying read and I hope to enjoy more stories by this marvelous author.