This tale takes us to the final days of the doomed last flight of the Hindenburg. Lawhon used the actual ship’s manifest to create the characters and the life aboard the airship and carefully weaves a story that is part historical fiction and part mystery. To this day, no one actually knows for sure what caused the disaster. Could it have been an accident or a mechanical failure, or perhaps it was a bomb employed to embarrass the Nazi’s who hailed the Zeppelin as a symbol of their regime, so as the pages turn it is difficult not to speculate what role each of the characters may have played in the tragedy.
The novel is told from five different points of view; including Emilie, a female stewardess, who was the first female crew member of a Zeppelin, Max, the navigator who loves her and Werner Franz, the fourteen year old cabin boy trying to earn money for his family. Rounding out the main characters are a disgraced female journalist, Gertrud Adelt, forced out of Germany and desperately missing her child and a mysterious unnamed American, frequently found in restricted parts of the ship.
Two elements really contribute to the depth of the novel, one is the ship itself and the other is the tension of the pre-war years with some of the passengers and crew supporting the ideals of the Third Reich, while others are using the airship as a means of escape from a government which is becoming ever more oppressive and frightening. For modern readers, it is hard to imagine the amazing size of the Hindenburg, 16 stories high and over 800 feet long, sporting all the amenities of a luxury hotel of the era, the airship is definitely a character in the novel.