(For the first installment, Lucky Guess:)
(WARNING: A plethora of spoilers, backstory and background information abounds in several of these profiles. Please do not read on if you are anticipating the next several installments of this book.)
The Super Six
Diane Spencer Prentice-Delford: A ten-year-old resident of Trouvaille, the capital of Rogatia. She is the grandniece of Valerie Mills Prentice-LaClure, the eccentric owner of the famous Sevton Estate in northern Elmshire Province. Diane lives just north of the city proper, in the suburban commune of Glasgow, with three relatives of hers: parents Jason and Elaine, who work at the national newspaper, the Trouvaille Crusader, and her book- and calypso-loving grandfather Rickley. In the story, she attends fourth grade at St. Martin's School in Trouvaille's Glover borough, and rides to this place on her tricycle. Things have not been in her favour for quite a while, as teachers, students and parents can attest; her grades have taken a downturn over the course of six semesters, and procrastination has concurrently run deep within her pysche. Her four friends--Norissa Trudeau, Njilomai Marbel, JoLyn Fraser and Pamela Ortoire--have threatened to desert her if she keeps up like that.
Diane's constant desire for a trip to Silhouette Island in the Seychelles, thousands of miles off in the western Indian Ocean, is the raison d'être behind this alienation. Though she has saved up all she can for the big trip, half of whatever she earns goes towards buying food for herself, her family, and a few needy fellows on her turf. At one point, her father Jason told her it would take her 27 years until she got a first-class ticket.
The girl's almost daily visits to a downtown bowling alley are also cause for concern. With no other interesting place on her mind nowadays, she resorts to playing frame after frame inside to curb her woes, until she is tired or someone arrives to pick her up. She also frquents a seven-story loft nearby, and for that she has a personal reason: Back in Grade 2, she signed up for extramural sessions with the city's Mensa chapter, upon hearing word that its members would award the season's highest-ranked participant with an all-expenses-paid Seychellois getaway. She wanted to go there, thanks to her South African penfriend Marilyn Neluonde (who believes a special treasure awaits them both in one of those islands). (By default, she was the youngest in a group comprised mainly of teenagers and young adults. Ditto for Roberta Greymantle, the first friend she ever made.) Just before the results were announced, the seven leaders of the so-called "Brain Team" went their separate ways, never to return to Shropshire soon. Despite this, Diane has kept checking back at the same spot every Tuesday, asking if she made it and hoping to see one of the Mensa mates again. The staff of the Ambassade Belgique--who set up shop here four weeks after Mensa's departure--are of almost no help to her. As a result, Norissa insists that the girl visit her parents instead. But as expected, Diane still won't give in....
Norissa Trudeau: One of Diane's dependable friends, also hailing from Trouvaille. She lives with her mother, two aunts and four uncles at the Schoelcher Library in Trouvaille's Leopold Commune, and meets her father on most weeknights at the TaleSpin-themed Whitslestop Jackson's Café. Rogatia's self-declared "quintessential youth", she is the smartest girl in Room 4-2 of St. Martin's; declares the ancient Greek maxim "Nothing overmuch" as her motto; and sees to her schoolwork every time she returns from St. Martin's. A Nokia BlackBerry serves as her indispensable means of communication away from home. Two of Norissa's uncles are of invaluable service to her: Moses calls her out on new library orders every month, while Stanley (generously called "my man Stan" by his niece and friends) assists Diane's parents as well as the city's Associated Press (AP) bureau. Her much older brother, Voltaire, studies law and fine art at Boston's Yale University.
Norissa is active in extracurricular activities. Every Wedneday afternoon, she attends the Little Van Gogh art school, just across the street from St. Martin's. And on weekends, she takes pride in being a Rogatian Girl Guide. At the start of the story, both institutions are scheduling a one-week trip to an exotic destination: Van Gogh's looks forward to a Suriname expedition, while the Guides prepare to match wits with Cancun's finest parachutists. (Parachuting is something Norissa would like to try out someday.) The wunderkind, of course, is torn over which one to apply for--because participation is mandatory at any rate.
Roberta Greymantle: Another friend of Diane's, an Anglican by upbringing. She lives some distance off from St. Martin's, at the edge of Cornwall borough. Her mother, Karen, works full-time as a secretary at the Ambassade.
In March 2004, the girl's parents watched an ABC News special about the unsolved 1990 burglary of Boston's Gardner Museum, in which thirteen works of art were taken away and never brought back. Days after its airing, they became devotees to the case, and have remained so since. Every once in a while, they even receive "guaranteed" updates on the ongoing saga from art dealer William Youngworth III, who still vows to recover the works no matter what his skeptics have to say. Thanks to their connections, they are also following developments on an even earlier case: the Montreal Museum theft of September 1972.
Roberta attends the Vanderbilt Primary School, a co-ed facility half a mile from her home, where she is friends with roller hockey fan Adrian Campbell. For snacktime, she dines on abesse--thinly-rolled pieces of pastry.
Kayla Alphonsus-Munro: A resident of Elmshire's Mackenzie District, and a blogger by trade; she has run the local-interest "Mackenzie Minute" web site and newsletter since December 2010, and is often referred to as the province's "Real Gossip Girl". The niece of a well-endowed bus driver and the daughter of a greeting-card stocker, she lives two miles away from Sevton Estate. Along with her friends Tyler James Marshall and Geraldine Etienne, the girl attends Chesterfield's Salinger School. When she is not profiling Rogatia's northern reaches, she takes her 16mm camera around with her. (In her sights: a Guinness World Record for Youngest Cinematographer; a spot at the Sundance Film Festival; and the Caribbean's first Oscar for Best Documentary.)
When the story takes root, Kayla is worried that Sevton may soon come under siege; Estelle Blanchard, a penfriend of hers, recently suggested this in her last online dispatch. She wants to go there and find out for herself, but the adults are worried she could get mixed up with swarms of tourists and patrons. Fortunately, she has enough money at her disposal to take a crack at it: EC$33 for a three-day pass.
Tyler James Marshall: A transplant from the Channel Island of Jersey, who lives at Sevton with his father Edwin. He spends his spare time drawing his "fursona", a rabbit named Robbie; has a crush on Kayla; and is especially fond of turnips (or as he and Edwin call them, "neeps"). Tyler's father has yet to explain his intent for coming to Rogatia, and this has perplexed the boy from the moment they arrived. Sevton has endured years of takeover attempts, and he hopes Edwin won't launch the next campaign against Valerie and her brood.
Geraldine Etienne: One of Kayla's blogging partners, who recently became an orphan. She boasts impressive artistic skills for her age, as proven by the trompe l'œil she has meticulously crafted around the walls of her home since Grade 1. Thanks to new installments of the Brambly Hedge series--Wilbur to the Rescue among them--voles are her creatures of choice. Etienne is of Martiniquais, Barbadian and Ukrainian ancestry; she and Kayla enjoy kasha (buckwheat porridge) by the bowlful every weekend. Owing to her intensive duties on her parents' cauliflower fields (their other source of income), she has never left Mackenzie at all.
Early in the story, some of Geraldine's art gets trucked over to Norissa's Library, whose staff has paid her EC$1,000 to use it as a special display during late 2011. The girl soon dedicates her work over the phone to her mother Lia, who succumbed to pneumonia the day before they got it. A week after Lia's funeral, Geraldine receives a new caretaker called Hilary Thompson, who has a knack for the Renaissance Masters.
At Sevton Estate
Valerie Mills Prentice-McClure: The owner of Sevton Estate in Chesterfield, a village commune in Elmshire's Mackenzie District. In December 1967, she inherited the property from its former English-born controllers (via the founder's incomplete last will and testament). At the Sevton Monument, Valerie runs the property's official Twitter feed (@16hollingsworth); owns a collection of SelectaVision memorabilia (at the Master's Chamber); and maintains a 16mm collection of European-dubbed Maple Town/Palm Town episodes. Her fellow assistants--a highly committed group of 129 tenants, at least seven of whom have lived there since she moved in--operate at her beck and call every single day. Taking advice from her late mother, a latter-day stockbroker named Delilah, Valerie refuses the occasional comglomerate negotiation whenever she must. Some tenants and visitors alike find the housekeeper far too lively for their liking these days; since the mid-2000s, she has frequently complained of cardiac arrests and heart flutters. This has led the group to warn her that one day, any of them could replace her for good.
Like her ancestors, Valerie is fond of the term "flying machine" when it comes to any kind of aircraft; she tends to a special set of gliders, balloons and blimps every once and again. All of these are stored inside two hangars, next to an unpaved runway at the south edge of the area. Despite this, the Estate staff is reluctant to acknowledge this on its official site or promotional material, instead focusing on the agricultural, social and entertainment aspects it has in store. What's more, she has even purchased one of the first "flying cars" in existence, made by Terrafugia.
Valerie owes part of her decades-long success as an entrepreneur to one single book: The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes (As Told to Jenifer) by DuBose Heyward. When she inherited the Estate, she assigned her first batch of tenants to read her parents' copy and follow the title character's method of home management. (The Country Bunny took care of 21 children; Valerie hired 21 tenants back then.) Indeed, the tactic became so popular with them that she bulk-ordered 50 more copies in the coming years, mainly as a training tool. As if that weren't enough, a commemorative statue of the rabbit, her creator and his daughter has graced the south side of the Mansion since April 1989--the book's 50th anniversary.
Edwin James Marshall: Tyler's father, and an insurance clerk for a Lloyd's of London subsidiary. At the start of a three-year tenancy (effective July 2011), he shows reluctance toward telling his son why he ended up in Elmshire. His cousin Natasha has forced him to reclaim 136 paintings from Valerie's collection, no matter how much (in cost or value). According to her, their ancestors once owned and cherished this lot before Sevton's former owner acquired them; a safe return to Saint Clement Parish will ensure she has "settled the score" with the gallery's past handlers. No wonder Natasha's crazy, reclusive nature has long annoyed him and several other Marshalls; none can remember the last time they even saw her.
Fabrizio Tolland: A temperamental tiller who cannot tolerate anyone behaving badly. Resides at the Sevton Monument's second floor.
Edmund Wyorst: A teacher, wordsmith and cricket statistician. At the Monument, he lives in a room painted in Key Lime.
Richard Dumont: A self-declared aficionado "of Monet, Manet and rare Monegasque", who serves as a janitor and curator at the Monument.
Wilbur Hemsley: A resident of Sevton's Herriman Hostel. Animator-in-training since 2006, he conducts evaluations of his patrons' artwork every third Saturday of the month.
Caroline Oricci: A no-nonsense police chief, and the only one serving Chesterfield. She spends much of her time at the Hostel's seventh floor.
Charlène Soulange: A bodyguard of Guadeloupean descent, who lives in the Hostel and reports to Tolland.
Estelle Blanchard: The mysterious penfriend who writes to the Super Six every month. She identifies herself as Acadian French, and lives in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. She is particularly fond of puzzles in Morse code. Early in the story, Estelle claims to have received a crucial list on Pastebin.com from a user named "timmylesuisse"--one that could bring the Gardner investigators collective sighs of relief.
The Claxalls: A father-and-son team of British vigilantes, "Captain" Charles and Thomas, who have spent the last seven years seeking revenge on those directly involved in the Gardner spree. Among their targets is Stephen Donnelly, the Principal of St. Martin's.
The Dompierres: A prestigious family hailing from various parts of the French-speaking world. Members live across the French Antilles, Metropolitan France, Switzerland and the Seychelles.
Since the late 19th century, the original Calais clan has battled with the Marshalls of Jersey over a valuable stake of priceless paintings--some of which ended up at Boston's Gardner Museum and the Sevton Estate without either side knowing it. Despite several decades of lobbying and pleading, the proprietors of these places never sent back the affected art. (Even the theft of a miniature Rembrandt from the Gardner, back in 1970, was hardly worth the effort.) They eventually mulled over teaming up with Jean-Daniel Montessori, founder of a Boston-based crime league named Icebox, to finish with it...but one of the Marshalls, Natasha, was thinking the same thing. She beat them to it with three stings: the robbery of Montreal's Museum of Fine Arts in September 1972; Dublin's Russborough House in 1987; and the Gardner in March 1990. But by 1999, the Dompierres finally managed to get ahold of the Boston treasure and enlisted Julius Dietrich Walwyn, Icebox's Belgian affiliate at the time, to keep track of it every month. Even as the works got carried to Silhouette in the Seychelles, the brood refused to own up--and still won't to this day.
Sarah Dompierre-Laloux: One of the Dompierres, and Melissa Youngworth's friend. Sarah rivals Valerie in the eccentricity department in several ways: she specialises in cooking the Korean dish bibimbap, uses a nyctograph at nights, is fluent in 27 languages, and has symptoms of acosmy and abasia--all this, at the age of 52! Several of her puzzled friends have to resort to Google and elsewhere to look up on her traits; a lucky few of those have access to the Oxford English Dictionary, whether in print or through online subscription.
In the story, Sarah escaped from her home in Belgium's Wallonia region--and her freewheeling partner Timothy Lusson--to hide within the jungles of central Sipaliwini in Suriname. She wants nothing more of Lusson, who has retrieved an important list that she fears could bring shame upon her entire clan. And worse, only days before she left him, he leaked that secret list over Pastebin.com...to a certain Estelle. (For more than eight years, Sarah has intended to bury the Gardner paintings in Suriname--and defend herself with all matter of ammunition--so that the FBI and their allies wouldn't dare think twice.)
Timothy Lusson: Sarah's ex-boyfriend, and the megalomaniac/filmmaker intent on relaunching his long-aborted animated feature project through TJE, a Rogatian multimedia company. At the start of the story, he embarks on a two-week stay at Sevton and shows his sketches to Wilbur Hemsley for appraisal. Kayla wants to meet him, thanks to the cute creations he has shown off on deviantART, FurAffinity and Inkbunny.
A native of the Swiss village of Gstaad, Lusson was once a member of Icebox. In recent months, he has taken over Sarah's family-owned rubber stamp business, based exclusively in Wallonia. He is also responsible from ripping the list away from the hands of his billionaire partner, Julius Dietrich Walwyn (who constantly funds the Ambassade). As he can attest, "absonous" is the perfect word to describe Sarah; she even rooted for MPAA head Chris Dodd (formerly D-CT) and Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) during the controversial SOPA/PIPA standoff. Yeah, right, he mused back then. I own your characters right now--and I can license them how I please. Sorry, slugger--your time's come and gone. The heck I'll ever put up with you again. (Tim is an open-source activist, while Sarah still shies away from modern technology and the Internet.)
Stephen Donnelly: The moody Principal who has served St. Martin's since 1989. Over his long tenure, Donnelly has upheld (and enforced) a set of rules that has changed little since the late 1910s; his fellow staff members often resent over putting up with them. For that alone, some of them (including Secretary Maria Nimitz) have begged him to step down and let a younger successor freshen things up. But he often rebukes them, reiterating time and again he is here for the students' own good.
Donnelly settled in Rogatia during the late 1960s as an immigrant from Ireland, and soon joined the country's Girl Guides staff. In recent months, the Claxalls have eyed him for the role he played in both the Montreal and Gardner heists: he allegedly gave his brother Noah the funds to carry them out. Donnelly cannot bear thinking about this secret, even more so when an aging Boeing 737-200 swoops its way across his schoolyard in the book's opening scene. The pilot, Thomas Claxall, wants to put an end to the affair (as does his father, "Captain" Charles).
Melissa Youngworth: An art teacher in Trouvaille, whose extramural sessions Norissa attends. During the forthcoming Carnival season, she and her students are looking forward to attending the grand opening of an art gallery in central Suriname.
Gustaf Alistair Rodak: A pawn shop/photography vendor in Lawrenceville, Mackenzie's only town. Kayla visits him once in a while to purchase new cans of film.
Wilfred Campbell: Roberta's friend, and a supporter of Rogatia's roller hockey phenomenon. His father Eric owns and rides the only licensed vehicle model in Rogatia that shares his full name.
Linda Morrisette: The lone mute among Diane's classmates.
Henrietta Lindellan: An Elmshire artist, dubbed the "Grandmother of Fan Art" by many.
Carrie Ann Prentice-Dorval: Valerie's hard-working niece. Runs a sugar mill on the island of Marie-Galante near Guadeloupe.