A long-ago fire that killed two boys in a small Iowa town emerges as a threat to the front-runner in the latest presidential campaign. The two journalists pursuing this mystery could hardly be more different. Though he works for the website Politifix, surly Sam Waterman disdains the digital tools that are taking over journalism. All he wants is a political scalp. Congenial Jack Westphal, a basketball star turned editor, is leading and tweeting his small-town newspaper into the digital age. When they start pursuing the mystery, the men have only one thing in common: They both love Tess Benedict. Tess left Washington after a volatile office romance with Sam, finding refuge in Iowa and marrying Jack.
Sam and Jack begin their collision course when Swede Erickson, Iowa’s popular governor, decides to run for president. Swede became a role model for Jack after an automobile accident killed his family during his freshman year of college. Jack starts his campaign coverage as an enthusiastic cheerleader of his personal mentor and the hometown favorite son. It’s the surprising information in Sam’s investigative profile on Erickson that forces Jack to look at his friend through objective eyes. As both men dig deeper, suspicion grows. From different directions the journalists follow separate threads that lead back to the fire. Along the way, they come to realize that the story will carry personal costs, not only to themselves but to the woman they both love. As the men draw closer to the truth, events thrust them together in a contentious alliance. The personal and national stakes escalate as they put together the final pieces and decide whether and how to tell the story. Pushed to the limit, Jack and Sam face together the costs of running a story that could destroy them all.