A handful of disparate lives -- each of them perilously unwhole, seeking something -- converge at a remote seaside inn: A lovelorn professor searching for the sea's end. A painter trying to capture its beginning. An inscrutable seductress banished by her husband. And a beautiful young girl, fatally ill, brought to the sea by a desperate father's last hope.
An intricate web of associations and destinies begins to reveal itself, but it is not until the arrival of a mysterious sailor called Adams that the truth in all its dreamlike beauty and monstrous cruelty becomes clear. Adams may furnish the key to the girl's salvation, but only the fulfillment of his obsessive secret purpose -- to answer murder with murder -- can conclude the journey that has brought him from the ends of the earth.