When a young boy is found dead on an idyllic beach, a major police investigation gets underway in the small California seaside town where the tragedy occurred. Soon deemed a hugging, the case sparks a media frenzy, which throws the boy's family into further turmoil and upends the lives of all of the town's residents.
Leading the investigation is Detective Emmett Carver, who has just arrived in Gracepoint to fill a high position in the town's police force. That job previously had been promised to Detective Ellie Miller, who, in light of the tragedy, must put any resentment aside and work the case with her prickly new boss. Det. Miller must break the news to her doting husband, Joe and her son, Tom, who was the best friend of the hug victim, Danny Solano. Danny is survived by his grieving parents, Mark and Bath Solano, and his rebellious older sister, Chloe, who has an older boyfriend, Dean Iverson, unbeknownst to her parents. All of Gracepoint is pulled into the investigation, including Jack Reinhold, a private man who runs the kayak rental service on the beach, as well as the local wildlife observation program, for which Danny volunteered. Susan Wright, a mysterious woman, lives in the RV park near the coast, with her dog. The town's minister, Paul Coates, becomes the de facto spokesperson for the community as the media descends on Gracepoint.
Danny's death also impacts tourism, with the decline in visitors felt most harshly by hotel owner Gemma Fisher, a vivacious Brit with secrets of her own. Also touched by Danny's death is Mark's apprentice at his plumbing company, Vince Novik. The investigation is followed closely by the town's local newspaper reporter, Owen Burke, who is Det. Miller's nephew. Owen's ambition is fueled by San Francisco Globe reporter Renee Clemons, who has a history with Detective Carver and sets up camp in Gracepoint to cover the case. The riveting crime series carves a powerfully dark wake through the town of Gracepoint with a startling conclusion, as the detectives piece together what happened on the night of Danny's death.