A plane crash, which kills 86 passengers and crew up near the Canadian Tar Sands development near Fort McMurray, brings FAA and Canadian air crash experts to the crash site in the middle of a Canadian deep freeze.
Kevin Browne, an FAA expert who comes in at the beginning of many air disasters has a reputation of finding the cause quickly. All possible causes need to be explored, including engine failure, airframe failure, pilot error and bird strikes as well as possible terrorist activity; the discovery of a live bomb starts a chain of events where the air line, the engine manufacturer and the airframe makers suddenly have a significant reduction on liability, but it also immediately brings in the police and the insurance companies that have policies on the crew and passengers. The passengers include the former chairman of Sun Oil Company, a special emissary for the President and an industrialist who is one of the most powerful men in America. What are these three men doing in the middle of February when the ground temperature is -50 degrees is a question and who would want to kill them?
The winter conditions and a blizzard make recovery of the bodies, the passengers' luggage and the pieces of the airplane that have been scattered over a large area impossible until the snow melts.
Work with the air crash experts and feel what they feeling in the macabre details of air crash disasters. Kevin Browne discovers an undeveloped film cartridge, which he picks up and puts in his pocket when above him he sees what they have been looking for the remains of a suitcase that contained the bomb that destroyed Flight 3869. He brings the remains the suitcase back to Washington for detained study in hopes of finding out the signature of the bomb maker.
Kevin has begun a relationship with an insurance investigator that has three people who have policies with them who were on board the 737. One policy is an unusual one where Asa Croonshank, the industrialist has a clause where a triple payment of 6 million pounds is called for in the event of his death on board an aircraft. Kevin Browne has arranged to visit to Allison Nabell in London and as he gets ready to visit her he takes in the film, which he discovers is still in his pocket.
That film changes his life forever. He takes it to a one-hour developer and when he returned to pick it up the police are waiting. He's arrested and suddenly finds himself being interrogated. The film contains horrific pictures of the younger daughter of the new President showing cuts, bruises and welts all over her body.
He discovers she had been kidnapped on the 10th of February and since then the President has only received one demand. That demand was to send out George Strom, his negotiator to come to where the kidnappers are waiting, Then with the discover that George Strom's name is listed as a passenger on the downed plane, no more demands are made. Where is Ellen Montfort, the President's daughter? Is she still alive?
The President asks Kevin Browne to work with a special team of FBI to find his daughter and this begins the detailed piecing together of various mysteries that have been destroyed or partially destroyed by the bombing of flight 3869.
This is an adventure story, which feels as if it were happening as you read the lines and feels the emotions of the main players. This is what most Presidents fear that a family member will be taken and used as a pawn in some scheme of power manipulation. Special security personnel are always trying to avoid such a situation, but mistakes do happen.