Cordelia Gray is the heroine/detective of the story. The book is written mainly from her point of view. Cordelia is the owner of the none too successful Pryde's Detective Agency (named for her old boss/mentor, Bernie Pryde, who has committed suicide and left the business to her). With business in a lull, she and her two staff members, Bevis and Miss Maudsley, have been reduced to finding missing pets, at which they are quite successful.
Cordelia is hired by Clarissa Lisle's husband, Sir George Ralston, to discover who has been sending her threatening letters. However, when Clarissa is suddenly murdered, she feels duty bound to solve the mystery of why and by whom Clarissa was killed.
Sir George Ralston
The last of Clarissa Lisle's many husbands. A former soldier, he has a 'dark' history on Courcy Island. He is "A little over sixty", conservative, well groomed, and formal. He employs Cordelia as a sop to his wife's insecurities, never suspecting that she has any serious enemies.
Clarissa is an actress with a long history of theatre work, especially in Shakespeare. Previously married three times, and through one of these marriages left in charge of a stepson, Simon Lessing, at the time of her death she is married to Sir George Ralston. Prior to the hiring of Cordelia, she has been receiving threatening letters, consisting of verse quotations on the theme of death and decay derived from a play she had appeared in, accompanied by a crude drawing, on untraceable paper. As a result of this intimidation campaign she is losing her nerve on stage, which threatens to jeopardise her career.
While not beautiful, she has great charisma and is described as having enormous power over men, being both seductive and manipulative. Her personality is dominating and demanding, though fragile from the onslaught of poison pen letters.