San Francisco, 1916. The streets roiling: pitched battles between radical workers and the henchmen of industrial barons, and between a vibrant, largely Italian anarchist milieu and the forces of state and church. All in the shadow of Europe's raging war, and of a push for the US to enter it, a war that resisting workers call "killing and dying for profits."
Into this maelstrom arrives Kate Jameson, a novice envoy from Washington tasked to secretly investigate the tenor of war support among San Francisco's business elite. She's also hoping to glimpse her wayward daughter, Maggie, whose last message to Kate had come from there. And, too, Kate is seeking the ghost of her husband Jamey, who fifteen years earlier had landed there upon his return, shattered, from the Philippines war.
Arriving back in the city at the same moment is Baldo Cavanaugh, a Sicilian-Irish son of San Francisco whose militant beliefs and special skills have led him time and again to the ragged edges of the city's turbulent history, and to the limits of political violence. And who now must confront the intertwined doubts and demons of his own character, which he'd sought to escape by fleeing the city three years before.
This stunning tale explores how these two seemingly disparate people-plus a wide cast of historical characters-become engaged with the city's and nation's turmoil, and with the related complexities of their pasts in Boston, Dublin, London, Cuba, and the Philippines. A vivid picture of a city and a moment, the novel brilliantly reveals the explosive admixture of the deeply personal and the deeply political.