Malta, 1913, and hot air balloons hover over the Grand Harbour. But one of them falls from the sky, the balloonist dying later from his injuries. He is not the only one to die unexpectedly at the Naval Hopspital, however, as a letter to the Times points out. Special Investigator Seymour of the Foreign Office is sent out from London to uncover the truth. Malta is still a British protectorate; indeed, with its red post boxes, English beer, and English language, it seems like an exotic "Little Britain."
But as the rumblings of war reach the small island, many of the old Maltese families are becoming divided in their loyalties, as some start to question Malta's subordinate status and wonder whether the time has come to strike out an independent path for themselves.
The letter to the Times has touched a raw nerve, as Seymour soon finds out: Is it simply a critique of bad nursing practices? Or is there a different, more sinister explanation?