San Francisco, 1849. The hills are swarming with desperate men from all over the world, come to seek their fortune in the grip of yellow fever. In their wake come the opportunists, not least of whom are the Australians, many of them former convicts who are quick to seize control in a lawless world. This group of Australians, headed by the standover man Thomas Keane, are known as The Coves. Enter twelve-year-old Samuel Bellamy, formerly of the Swan River Colony, lately of Van Dieman’s Land, in search of his mother who, last he heard, has gone to join the molly-houses in California. Sydney-town, San Francisco, is a world of opportunism, loyalty and violent betrayal, and Samuel must learn to be a man if he is to survive.