Michael J. Roscoe: Chairman of Roscoe Electronics, the ninth or tenth richest man in the world. His office is the Roscoe Tower on New York’s Fifth Avenue. Careful about security. Wears glasses chosen to hide as much of his handsome round face as possible. Fifty-four years old. Met Alan Blunt at Cambridge University and the two men became friends. Son is Paul Roscoe, who attends Point Blanc Academy. For the current status of Michael J. Roscoe, see Unusual Deaths.

Paul Roscoe:Fourteen-year-old son of Michael J. Roscoe. Only child. Parents divorced a few years ago. Fair hair, blue eyes and freckles, fit looking.

General Viktor Ivanov:Ex-KGB, until the previous December when he was head of the Foreign Intelligence Service and probably the second or third most powerful man in Russia after the president. Fourteen-year-old son, Dimitry, at Point Blanc Academy.

Helen Bosworth:Michael Roscoe’s English secretary. Left her home and husband to come and work in New York and loves every minute.

Colin:Heavy-shouldered boy with dark hair and acne. Had once been one of Alex’s best friends, and popular with everyone. Then had gone moody and withdrawn, and work gone downhill. Reason was Skoda.

Fiona Friend:Daughter of Sir David Friend. Fifteen years old, long black hair, pale skin - going to be a beautiful woman. Arrogant with upper-class voice.

Sir David Friend:Tall, rather aristocratic, with curling grey hair and glasses. Supermarket magnate who owns a mansion in Lancashire. Billionaire, heavily involved him government circles and the personal adviser to the Prime Minister.

Lady Caroline Friend:Slim and dark-haired, like Fiona.

Rufus:Fiona Friend’s official boyfriend. Sixteen, well built with dark curly hair.

James Sprintz:Round face, long dark hair, dark eyes and pale skin. German, lives in Düsseldorf; Alex’s only friend at Point Blanc. Father is Dieter Sprintz, a banker, the One Hundred Million Dollar Man: so called because that was how much he had made in twenty-four hours. Mother lives in England.

Hugo Vries: One of the pupils at Point Blanc Academy. Fourteen, Dutch, lives in Amsterdam. Brown hair, green eyes. Father Rudi Vries, owns diamond mines. Sent to academy after caught shoplifting and doing arson. Very solitary, speaks little English.

Nicolas Marc:Another of the pupils at Point Blanc Academy. Fourteen, French. Expelled from private school in Paris. Brown hair, brown eyes, fit, good at sport but hates losing.

Tom McMorin:Pupil at Point Blanc Academy. Fourteen, Canadian, from Vancouver. Parents divorced. Mother runs media empire. He has reddish hair, blue eyes is well built and a chess player. Before going to Point Blanc, he was involved in stealing cars and drink-driving.

Cassian James:Another boy at Point Blanc Academy. Fourteen, fair hair and brown eyes. Jill James his mother, a studio chief in Hollywood. Parents divorced. Plays jazz piano. Expelled from three schools for various drug offences.

Joe Canterbury:Pupil at Point Blanc Academy. Fourteen, American. Brown hair and blue eyes. Mother is New York senator; father something big in Pentagon. Caught up in vandalism, truancy, shoplifting. Vegetarian.