The legendary Zeppelin airship, the "Hindenburg", exploded on arrival in the US in 1936. It caused the end of the line for airships, and presaged the end of peace.
Birger Lund, a Swedish journalist on the Hindenburg, was declared among the 28 dead. Reinvented as an American lecturer, he is determined to uncover the truth about the disaster, and in 1947 he tracks down some of the survivors. These include Marta, his one-time lover, who is now living in Rome. He travels on, through a desolate and war-damaged Germany, and reaches the remote island where one of the airship's navigators, Edmund Boysen, now lives.
Lund discovers that the islanders appear not to have noticed the end of the war, and live as they did before. They are determined to protect - with violence, if necessary - any secrets that Boysen may have. And Boysen himself has a very different agenda to Lund's.
Through the lives of the characters Lund traces, he sees the euphoria of the creation of the Zeppelins, the importance of their success in 1930s Germany, and the heroic status afforded to the pilots and engineers. He realises that the disaster of the Hindenburg could not have been an accident. But how was the fire created? Why on US soil? And which of the survivors was the killer?
Henning Boetius, the son of one of the Hindenburg's survivors, uses and reinterprets historical events to create a dramatic novel: the vivid description of the last journey and crash; the atmosphere of Germany both before and after the war; and the truth about the crash itself, finally revealed through his character's brave and dogged search.