In 1924 Boston, Private investigator and war veteran Edward Pierce suffers from increasingly bizarre nightmares, and self-medicates with sleeping pills and alcohol. He is soon contacted to look into the case of the Hawkins family, who mysteriously died in a fire. As the only clue is a strange picture painted by the supposedly crazy mother shortly before her death, Edward has to set out to Darkwater Island off the coast to find out more about the matter. Upon arriving in Darkwater, Pierce is steeped in the strange local culture. Darkwater was home to a booming whaling industry until a sudden scarcity in 1847. That year, the island’s last ship, the Scylla, returned with a legendary “Miraculous Catch,” that saved the island. The islanders are superstitious and suspicious of outsiders like Pierce. The detective meets Captain Fitzroy, who provides him with a few details of the Hawkins family; Officer Bradley, who handled the case; and Cat Baker, a woman bootlegger and feared gangster. He also sees a beached killer whale, killed by ghastly wounds, being dragged back into the sea by the police, much to the locals’ chagrin.