Sebastian Pedigree, a pitiable pederast who taught in the boys’ school Matty attended. His deviant inclinations lead to a child’s suicide, his own dismissal, a series of imprisonments, and his moral and economic decline. He meets Matty’s unspoken pleas for friendship with horror and rejection, blaming him for the tragic pattern of his life. The slightly built and graying Pedigree cannot control the tide of passion that overtakes him in waves, and he relies on a multicolored ball to attract young boys to his center of existence, the public toilets. For all of his sins, he understands suffering and guilt. He is the final witness to Matty’s return from the dead. Whether that return is a hallucination or a beatific vision, it is the last thing Pedigree ever sees, as he prays for an end to his surging tide of impulses.
Sophy Stanhope, a wholesomely beautiful child and then young lady whose affected innocence hides her evil twist. Having tortured animals as a child, she continues to delight in breaking conventional taboos by lying, stealing, and prostituting herself. She becomes a thrill-seeking sexual sadist, joining forces with a perverse and amoral thief (Gerry), repeatedly stabbing her sexual conquest (the narcissistic, athletic Fido), and exploiting the knowledge and position of others to further her plot to kidnap and slowly torture and kill a wealthy young Arab prince from Wandicoot School. Her failure to achieve that end leads to perjury and unsuccessful attempts to blame those around her. Her belief that she and her twin are “everything to each other” is continually disproved.
Antoinette (Toni) Stanhope, Sophy’s pale, ethereal twin sister, a political terrorist. Aloof, remote, and impenetrable, Toni shares her sister’s unearthly beauty and perversion but pursues her evil with more controlled direction and theoretically in the name of some anarchistic political cause. Despite her drifting manner, she takes advantage of Sophy’s muddled plot and, with her political associates, helps firebomb the school and take hostages to Africa, from where she broadcasts about freedom and justice. Sim calls her “mad and bad,” but Edwin recognizes the truth: “She’s not human.”
Mr. Stanhope, the ineffectual, sexually driven father of the twins. He coldly dismisses them from his life, mocks their sexuality, and buries himself in his studies.
Sim Goodchild, the very decent, kindly owner of a bookstore near the center of Greenfield. Sim takes people at face value and is tolerant and forgiving. He is at first beguiled by both the Stanhope girls (for whom he had an innocent crush) and Pedigree, but eventually, even with his simple innocence, he sees them for what they are.
Ruth Goodchild, his calm, matter-of-fact wife. She is the first to see through the Stanhope girls’ façade. Seeing Sophy stab one of her boyfriends makes her ill.
Edwin Bell, one of Matty’s fellow students, now a tutor at the school. Embarrassed by the reappearance of Pedigree but convinced of the holiness and vision of Matty, occultist Bell longs for a mystical religious experience and persuades Sim Goodchild to share in the search. Together, they accidentally discover the place Sophy had planned to hide her kidnapping victim.