This novel marked the arrival of a fresh new voice in the mystery genre. In alternating chapters, two narrators—Shiina (male) describing the present, and Kotomi (female) relating events that began two years ago—tell the curious tale of what has unfolded in the time intervening. Shiina is about to begin college and has just moved into his own apartment in Sendai. He goes to introduce himself to his neighbor, who identifies himself as Kawasaki; soon Kawasaki asks Shiina to help him rob a bookstore, ostensibly to steal a dictionary. Unable to refuse, Shiina reluctantly goes along. After the robbery, Kawasaki and a pet shop owner named Reiko tell Shiina about events that occurred two years earlier. During that period Kotomi, 22, is working at a pet store and living with her boyfriend Dorje, a student from Bhutan. There have recently been more than 20 killings of pets or animals stolen from pet shops in the city, and Kotomi and Dorje happen to come upon the perpetrators—two men and a woman in their twenties. Kotomi loses her ID when the three attack them, and she subsequently receives threats of another attack. Also drawn into the fray is Kotomi's ex-boyfriend, a graduate student—named Kawasaki—who tutored Dorje in Japanese. With Dorje and Kawasaki's help, Kotomi tries to catch the perpetrators, but . . .
As the two-year-old chain of events begins to shed light on the recent bookstore robbery, the scattered pieces of the puzzle gradually fall into place, leading to a startling denouement.