Keith regularly cheats on and abuses his wife. He regularly sleeps with an underage girl in return for cash payments to her mother. He drinks, gambles, and takes part in burglaries and semi-violent crime (although he is unable to follow through with actual violent crime). He is addicted to pornography and television to the extent that he is unable to distinguish reality from what is shown on the screen. He has raped several women in the past (including his wife).
Nicola is a self-styled "murderee", who manipulates the entire cast of characters to bring about her own murder so that she will not have to face ageing, a natural process that she hates as she fears the loss of her attractiveness and power to manipulate men, as well as the indignities of decay and old age. She describes herself as a failed suicide, who must find her murderer if she is to successfully end her life. She spins a different story to each of the three male characters (Sam, Keith and Guy). To Guy, she pretends she is a frigid, sexually timid virgin: she tells him that her childhood in a dreadful orphanage and her friendship with a tragic girl called Enola Gay who is raped by a "pitiless Iraqi" and who produces a child called Little Boy, has left her unable to form a sexual relationship with any man, but that Guy has awakened the possibility in her. Feigning love for Guy, she teases him sexually at every opportunity, pretending she is too afraid and too unready to "go the whole way" with him, until his unsatisfiable and excruciating lust induces him to leave his wife and child and to give her a very large sum of money which he believes will help her bring the fictional Enola Gay and Little Boy to London. Nicola insists that Guy leave his wife and son to consummate their relationship, and Guy does so, destroying his family life. To Keith, Nicola styles herself as a rich, knowing woman of the world, a former one-night stand of the Shah of Iran, who recognises him for what he truly is – a darts prodigy and future darts and TV personality. She gives Keith Guy's money, which he spends on ridiculous clothes and accessories. Keith, a pornography aficionado (and addict) is kept keen by regular "home videos" created by Nicola, starring herself. To Sam, Nicola pretends to tell the whole truth, but in fact manipulates him as well, in a way that is apparent to the reader only when Sam himself realises – at the end of the story.
Guy is an idle, rich dreamer whose relationship with his "frightening wife" is sexless after the birth of their uncontrollable son, Marmaduke, who seems to have a violent Oedipal complex. Guy cheats on his wife, and finally leaves her and his son to be with Nicola, although at the end, when he realises what Nicola is, he goes back home.
Sam is a failed writer who selfishly uses the three main characters to have a chance at writing a popular and successful novel. Although he knows that Keith is abusing his wife and someone is abusing their baby daughter, he does not intervene until the very end to remove the child from Keith's care.