On the central coast of California during World War II-
-A Japanese submarine attacks California's fuel supply, firing shells from its deck gun at oil storage tanks along the Gaviota coast. When the submarine later runs aground and is salvaged by U.S. Navy divers, they find a top-secret U.S. War Department Report detailing America's shoreline fortifications.
-A young lawyer who had successfully defended Japanese-Americans from prosecution is found dead only days after discovering the cause of mysterious explosions that destroyed two cliff-mounted U.S. gunsites.
In Los Angeles, fifty years later-
-The powerful Northridge earthquake strikes the San Fernando Valley, causing extensive damage to the freeway system. Two weeks later, an arsonist sets fire to a commercial warehouse, and the innocent Latino youth who is charged with the crime goes on trial for his life.
-Paul "Pike" Seger, prominent trial lawyer, is nominated to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, but a blackmailer demands that he refuse the post, threatening to expose a sealed indictment charging his father with an infamous crime.
Pike's search for the truth about his father, spanning five decades of interwoven events, culminates in his solving three murders and uncovering a wartime conspiracy to appropriate America's most valuable property for private gain. Gaviota-in equal parts historical novel, courtroom thriller and murder mystery-is at its heart a quest for redemption by a guilt-tormented man whose deepest yearning is for inner peace.