When recently orphaned Woodley Sharpless encounters Ben Pinkerton -- known to all as 'Trouble' -- for the first time at the exclusive Blaze Academy, he is instantly enraptured. They are polar opposites; Ben is exotic and daring; Woodley is bookish and frail, yet their lives quickly become inextricable intertwined. First at school, then in the staccato days of twenties New York, Woodley sees flashes of another person in his friend and slowly discovers a side of Ben's nature that belies a dark and hidden history. As the curtain falls on the frivolity of the twenties and rises to reveal the cruelty of a new decade, Woodley and Ben's friendship begins to fragment. Over the coming years the two men meet intermittently; in Japan before the outbreak of the Second World War and then in the midst of the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. Change in both their lives, their relationship and their suffering, stand for a generation; one dispersed by depression and upheaval, brutality and confusion.