Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 543
Ronald Bridges, the assistant curator of graphology at a small London museum. As a handwriting expert, he has earned a considerable reputation in the detection of forgeries and occasionally is consulted by the police or asked to appear in court as an expert witness. An epileptic, he is subject to frequent fits. At one point in his life, he sought relief from the disease by volunteering as a subject in a drug test. Unfortunately, his case was one of the few for which the drug was ineffective. During his testimony in the trial of Patrick Seton, he has a seizure.
Martin Bowles, the lawyer who is prosecuting Patrick Seton’s case. He lives with his aging mother but also spends time with Isobel Billows, a wealthy widow. His performance in court leads to the guilty verdict in Patrick’s case.
Patrick Seton, a spiritualist medium charged with fraudulent conversion and forgery. A thin, pale, anxious-looking man in his mid-fifties, he lives with Alice, who is pregnant with his child. His ability to go into a trance and evoke the spirits of the dead has endeared him to wealthy widows despite the air of suspicion that surrounds his activities. He fakes his devotion to Alice; in reality, he plans to kill her if he is acquitted. His trial reveals that he is indeed a con man, interested only in swindling rich people.
Alice Dawes, a young woman who is a diabetic and is pregnant with Patrick’s baby. Enamored with the spiritual atmosphere of Patrick’s group, she works as a waitress, hoping for a better life after the baby is born and the trial is over.
Elsie Forrest, a waitress friend of Alice who tries to convince her of Patrick’s real nature. Her theft of a forged letter plays a crucial part in the events leading to the trial.
Freda Flower, a wealthy widow interested in spiritualism. A letter supposedly written by her, authorizing Patrick to use her financial donation, is the central piece of evidence in the trial.
Marlene Cooper, another wealthy widow interested in spiritualism who has formed a special “inner circle” within the spiritualists’ group.
Tim Raymond, her nephew, always under her thumb for fear of being cut out of her will and having to go to work for himself.
Ewart Thornton, a teacher who uses his students’ examination papers as an excuse for avoiding any involvement more serious than gossip about spiritualism and the affairs of the others.
Walter Prett, an art critic with one set lecture that covers all the art of the Western world.
Matthew Finch, the London correspondent of an Irish newspaper. After an evening spent with Elsie, he falls deeply in love with Alice.
Mike Garland, another clairvoyant, whose spiritual and other activities are highly suspect.
T. W. Sockett
T. W. Sockett, a spiritualistic clergyman, ordained by unusual methods, who gives testimony against Patrick at the trial.
Francis Eccles, a British Council lecturer.
Detective-Inspector Fergusson, the policeman who receives all the random bits of information from the principals in the case. He testifies at the trial.