Maynard Brennan, the first CEO in the colorful history of Alta to come from outside the ranks, is a catalyst for dramatic change within the corporation. He cleans house, removing Alta's incumbent executives, unaware that he is sowing the seeds of his own demise.
Through the eyes of Caroline Woodson - a long-time flight attendant and Alta veteran - we follow Maynard's progression to the top and the circumstances that lead to his murder, including the jockeying of his newly appointed leadership team: Rex Wright, a flamboyant and charismatic personality with a long airline pedigree; Bernice Anthony, a financial genius who is determined to become the first woman CEO of a major airline; and Trey Sperling, a young consulting wizard whose idea for an "airline within an airline" is given the green light to save the stodgy operation from further financial bleeding.
At the moment of Maynard's death, the story takes a leap backward, to the life of the founder, Marty Willman, and his shepherding of the airline through the turmoil of the jet age, the civil rights era in the south and Alta's bold growth into a global airline. Marty maintains Alta's humble family culture through the end of his reign, but it is a stark contrast to the present-day enterprise - one in which pay cuts and layoffs bankroll the bonuses of Alta's elite executives.
The story resumes with the investigation of the murder. Caroline, who has risen to a high-ranking position, is front and center as Alta's ambitious leaders reveal themselves and the murderer among them at the climactic finale of the story.