From swimming to the bottom of the ocean to reclaim a sunken boat, to standing up to bullies, to asking questions that might have painful answers, twelve year-old Donovan Sanger has some capabilities that the grown-ups around don't. This is why his dad has asked Donovan to go spend the summer with an Aunt and Uncle he barely knows. Aunt Hattie has become very ill with lung cancer and she and Uncle Bix need "a little moral support," as Donovan's dad puts it. Uncle Bix is a mechanical genius who just a couple of years ago was released from jail for his role in a robbery. Before a week goes by, Donovan is sent underwater in a wetsuit so small he can barely breathe, is given a very short haircut in his sleep by Uncle Bix, who says it will "give him some strength," and learns that his uncle's criminal past might be something he has not entirely left behind. As the summer progresses, Donovan helps brings a boat up from the bottom of Puget Sound and care for his Aunt, all the while trying to discover just what Uncle Bix is doing at secret meetings with his ex-convict friends.