While visiting his hometown, Pacifica, Ca., Jake Brodie is visited by an angel. The angel explains to Jake that there is a task that he must perform, and that he will need to stay in Pacifica a while longer than he had planned. Without explanation of what the task is, the angel leaves Jake, who finds himself transported back to 1938!
With no money, odd clothing, nowhere to go, and no idea of what his task is, Jake finds himself in a very different town than the one he is familiar with. While wandering the streets of the sleepy coastal community, Jake meets his own great-grandfather, and without revealing his identity, takes a job working for him. He also meets his own father as an infant, and comes to blows with his ne're-do-well grandfather, John. As the weeks pass, Jake is taken in as a member of the family.
Jake also falls victim to his great-grandmother's matchmaking, and is propelled into a relationship with Susan, a young, Chinese widow. While attracted to Susan, both emotionally and physically, Jake is conflicted in his relationship with her, because back in his own time, he is happily married, with two children.
While on the beach one afternoon, pondering his situation, Jake makes a grisly discovery; the body of a young girl, tangled in seaweed. The angel appears to Jake, along with the spirit of the dead girl, unseen by all but Jake. The little girl shares with Jake what happened to her, and who was responsible. Jake's task is then revealed; stop the person responsible for her death, and the deaths of other children.
A game of cat-and-mouse develops between Jake and the killer, to see who can stop the other first. Jake must balance the increasingly amorous advances of Susan, and keep from losing his soul to the sinister entity who guides the murderer.
Upon his return to his own time in 1998, Jake must re-connect with his wife and family again, and leave Susan in the past; something he has trouble doing!