Ensign Peter Maxwell was called up from the reserves just after Pearl Harbor, but after two years of leading the Navy choir he's ready for something more challenging. When a posting goes up for a new ammo ship-prophetically enough named after his Iowa hometown, Liberty Hill, he rallies his quartet to volunteer for the ship. Unfortunately, the captain of the ship is Lt. Commander John Jacob Egan, who has no use for "college boys," as all the junior officers are, and even less for his non-white crew.
Despite obvious racism on board, a two-week shakedown cruise goes unexpectedly well. But as the ship returns to the San Francisco Bay to be reloaded, the sky erupts in a horrendous yellow and red explosion beyond the hills--Port Chicago has exploded. Maxwell assumes that the worst is behind their crew until the second in command is murdered, and it is up to him to find the killer.
In this stunning and unpredictable stand-alone thriller Patrick Culhane delves into the complicated relationships of World War II heroes, and in the process divines the core of the human spirit.