Niles and Holland Perry appear initially as normal thirteen-year-old boys, Niles just a bit more considerate than most, while Holland, apparently the more strong-willed of the two, has a streak of malice. One suspects, however, that Holland's tendency to mockery may derive from a secret envy of Niles, who is generally more competent in games of skill than Holland and more beloved, perhaps, for his sunnier disposition. No matter what mean pranks Holland is guilty of, however, Niles never violates the code of secrecy between them — even when Holland causes their father's death.

Certain odd facts suggest that Niles is more ambivalent than he first appears. Although he seems subservient to Holland's whims, he possesses a gold ring with the family crest of a peregrine falcon on it, which once belonged to Holland. He carries it, with another mysterious object, eventually revealed as a severed finger, in a tobacco can concealed in his shirt next to his skin, a hiding place shared by a live chameleon. These objects feature in macabre events in the course of the story, as the full complexity of the double personality of the surviving twin comes to light.

There are several minor characters which receive minimal character development: a mysteriously ill mother confined mostly to her room, an obnoxious cousin who jumps into the hay mow where he is impaled on a pitchfork, an aged neighbor woman with a weak heart who may have been helped into the next...

(The entire section is 361 words.)