In the summer of 1956, Melvin White arrives in the Catskill Mountains to work as a busboy in the dining room of a summer resort hotel. Melvin is there to earn money for college expenses and in search of sex and maybe love. Harlan Hawthorne of Harvard College, and Ron Alter, a tough New York kid, are his roommates and they are as different as Cambridge and the Bronx. Harlan is handsome, charming sophisticated and a magnet for women of all ages. Melvin hopes Harlan will educate him in the ways of seduction and he aspires to apprentice himself to this embodiment of grace and style.But it is street-smart Ron who actually introduces Melvin to sexual opportunities. He also introduces him to the legend of Judge Crater, the notorious jurist who disappeared in August 1930. Is the judge buried in a well on the hotel property or is he living just a few miles away? While trying to answer this question Melvin meets his first love, Sarah, and is transformed, first by ecstasy and then by a shocking betrayal.