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Mark Green is a fifteen-year-old living on a peaceful, rural island off Canada’s Pacific Coast. Things come easily for Mark-good grades, athleticism, friendships and opportunities. His parents retired to Admiral’s Island just two years before the story opens in 1971. Mark is the youngest and last child still at home. His brother and two sisters are scattered about the coast, but still close. His life is easy as an 'only' child on an island where nothing much happens until one fall evening when the local hotel burns down and he finds out that things aren’t always as they seem to be.
Oscar Wood is an elderly security guard at the ferry terminal close to Mark’s home. On one of his nightly jogs, Mark meets Oscar and they strike up a friendship. Mark sees Oscar as a surrogate grandfather, since both of his died before he was born. At their night-time meetings, Oscar doles out folk wisdom, island history, and theories on all aspects of life that Mark would never learn in school.
Bob Walker is a neighbour and long-time family friend. He, too, has retired to Admiral’s Island after a long and secretive career in the armed forces and Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Helping Mark with a history essay for school, Bob reveals to Mark some secrets about his past. Later, he asks Mark to write his memoirs after he dies-memoirs that could change history books. Bob subtly tries to steer him toward a career as a spy and government-sanctioned assassin. Mark isn’t sure if Bob is on the level or is starting to lose his faculties. The idea of a more exciting life than Admiral's has to offer is tempting to Mark, yet the rural lifestyle is also alluring, if not lacking opportunity and adventure.
Admiral's Island is the peaceful backdrop for incompetent drug-dealers, a war criminal, murder, and a cameo appearance by Canada's most notorious serial killer.

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