Faye Longchamp is working near the mouth of the Mississippi, researching archaeological sites soon to be swamped by oil. Amande, a bright, curious, poverty-stricken adolescent girl is drawn to Faye, perhaps because she idolizes the confident archaeologist. When the girl's grandmother and her no-account uncle are murdered, Amande seems destined for neglect or worse. Soon, Faye finds herself among people fighting hard for Amande's pathetic inheritance: a raggedy houseboat, a few shares of stock, and a hurricane-battered island that's not even inhabitable. Pirate-era silver coins are found and disappear. Shadowing it all is the fact that there's a murderer on the loose. But why should Faye be surprised by such shady events, here in these watery lands settled by the greatest pirates of them all?