Ross is an assistant professor of astronomy at a western university. His wife recently died in an auto accident, leaving Jake alone and bitterly unhappy.|
Leverett Cardwell has been a father figure to Jake, a mentor since Jake was a high school student. He convinces Jake to meet Franklin Tomlinson, a wealthy playboy type who plans to challenge the incumbent Christopher Leeds in the upcoming race for the US Senate.
Jake becomes Tomlinson's science advisor and--at Cardwell's suggestion--pushes the candidate to back MHD, a new way to generate electricity efficiently and cleanly, even using the state's abundant resources of high-sulfur coal.
But there are powerful forces backing Senator Leeds, and they do not want MHD to succeed. Jake becomes involved in political intrigue, a couple of steamy love affairs, and several murders.
MHD stands for magnetohydrodynamics. MHD power generators are real; powerful political forces have prevented their use by the electrical utility industry.