MATT NOLAN is the primary protagonist.  He works for a CIA front company called the McGowan Corporation, located in Reston, Virginia.  Matt grew up on the outskirts of Battle Creek, Michigan and went to college at the University of Michigan where he stayed through his masters degree specializing in Arabic and Akkadian languages.  He joined the army and served in Iraq in 2003 among the first wave of troops then went to work for NSA for a number of years before transferring to the McGowan Corporation.  He is in his mid to late thirties at the time of the novel.

The McGowan Corporation that he works for handles a wide variety of duties that the CIA either does not want (such as following open source media in Foreign Countries), or can not touch do to legal reasons (off the record black ops, both domestically and in foreign countries).  Thus, most of its employees are skilled in critical languages (i.e. Arabic, Russian, Chinese, etc.) with many of them also possessing "bonus" skills such as martial arts, firearms skills, explosives, electronics and technology.

Matt was once married.  He met Susan Black while taking his introductory and orientation courses at NSA as a new hirer.  Susan, whose name means "Lotus Flower" in Ancient Egyptian, was also a new hirer speaking both Arabic and French.  Ten years prior to the opening of this novel, Matt's wife Susan was killed in an auto accident in Tunisia where she was doing a TDY due to her expertise in both Arabic and French.  She had been six-months pregnant with their first child at the time of her death and Matt had never fully recovered from that tragedy.  He also harbored deep suspicions that the "accident" was not an accident.  She had been traversing a traffic circle when a large truck entered the circle from an adjoining street without stopping and plowed into her car.   This scar left Matt with a burning obsession to track down Islamic terrorists where ever they may be.

Matt's own tragedy made him feel more empathy towards his own parents who lost their first child, a daughter, at age one month.  His parents, both retired, still live in the home Matt grew up in on the outskirts of Battle Creek.  One of his big regrets is his inability (or lack of will) to take leave more often and spend some quality time with them.  

At 5'10" Matt is not the biggest guy around, but he has excellent martial arts skills to make up for his lack in size.  He works out with the weights but his main forte is his agility on the chinning bar.  Matt has green eyes and brown hair which he usually keeps in a crew cut.  He lives in a two-story single family home in a quiet Reston neighborhood.

His biggest fear is to fall in love again and have it also end in tragedy, either for her (if his job should get him killed), or for him if he should lose yet another loved one.

BRUCE LISKIN  is a colleague of Matt's and his best buddy.  Bruce grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, then went to the University of Tulsa where he played tight end on the football team.  After college he joined the Air Force, but the Air Force thought he was too big to be a pilot so they sent him to the Defense Language Institute in Monterrey, California where he learned Arabic.  From there he was sent to work at the NSA in Maryland where he became a civilian employ after his Air Force tour was up.  He soon grew tired of NSA and transferred to the McGowan Corporation in Reston, Virginia.   

Bruce is a heavy-duty weight trainer who once dabbled in serious body-building.  When he was a kid, other kids teased him about his last name--but only once.

Like Matt, Bruce also lives in a single family home in Reston.  He is married to a woman named Sarah, and they have two kids.

INGRID WOLFHAUSER is another employee of the McGowan corporation.  She is the granddaughter of immigrants from the former East Germany.   Her grandparents and parents continued speaking German mixed with Russian at home, so Ingrid grew up virtually tri-lingual.  She obtained a double major in German and Russian before joining the CIA.   She is about 5'10", blonde, blue-eyed, and has a killer body.  In addition to her language skills she is a qualified expert marksman with both rifle and pistol, though her skills with the pistol are off the charts.  She has also earned a 4th degree black belt in Taekwando.  

In spite of her great looks and killer body, she has historically had bad luck with men.  They are either afraid of her, intimidated by her, or see her as a conquest.  She has yet to find someone she can both fall in love with--and trust.  As the story develops, she does, however, develop a romantic interest in Matt Nolan.

JOHN STURGEON is the Director of the McGowan "Corporation" and is thus, the boss of Matt, Bruce, and Ingrid.  John grew up in an all Black neighborhood in Atlanta's inner city.  He went to college at Georgia Southern University where at six-foot five he played defensive end.  After college he served in the army, did three tours in Iraq, then retired after a total of 20 years.  He parlayed his Army experience into a double-dip job at the CIA in Langley, Virginia where he climbed the ladder until he was sent to Reston to manage the CIA's McGowan Corporation.

John is married and has two daughters that he is putting through college.

JERRY ARIHA is the son of immigrant parents from the West Bank city of Jericho.  He is a charismatic fast-rising U.S. politician much favored by the media.  He is also a key member of the secret cult that longs to establish a new world order based on worship of the ancient Near Eastern moon god--a religion which Jericho was once a leading center.  But first he must gain control of the U.S. political apparatus.

VADIM VAVOLOV is a rich Russian Oilgarch.  In addition to profits in the oil and gas industry, Vadim has gotten rich off of his family owned shipping business.  He owns a large mansion and estate in the Black Sea resort town of Kabardinka, just south of the major port city of Novorossiysk.   Vadim is an avid birder and maintains a large aviary on the south side of his estate.  A childhood bout with polio left his right leg shriveled forcing him to shuffle walk with a cane.  His deformity also prevented him from ever marrying and having children.

On the north side of his mansion he keeps caged birds of another species--a harem of young, beautiful East European girls supplied by the Russian mafia.  At 70 years of age he doesn't have much use for the harem--except to offer use of it to reward the strapping young thugs he hires as security and to perform black bag jobs for him.  

Vadim is another key member of the secret moon god cult.

PATYA AREFYEV is one of those strapping young thugs in Vavolov's employ.  Patya is a former Spetsnaz, Russian Special Forces officer, hardened by battle experience in Chechnya.  In addition to heading up Vavolov's security team Patya also acts as Vavolov's chief aide and confidant.  

Tall, broad shouldered, muscular, blond, and athletic in his late twenties, Patya is everything that Vadim Vavolov isn't.  Consequently Vavolov sees in Patya the son that he always wished he could have had--to the consternation of Patya.

But being the boss's favorite has its perks, thus Patya is a regular visitor to the private harem on the mansion's north side.  There he falls in love with one of the residents.

OLGA ANDREYUSHKIN is Patya's love interest.  At the age of nine, she was kidnapped from her Moscow home by the Russian mafia and forced into the sex slavery business, kiddie porn and prostitution, until Vadim Vavolov purchased her when she was thirteen.  

Her goal is to woo Patya enough to convince him to help her escape.  With her beautiful face, full head of flaming red hair, and bedroom skills, she has all the equipment needed for the job--unless the moon god's new world order reshuffles the cards.

MUHAMMAD 'ABD AL-QADER is a member of the secret terrorist group called the ansar ash-shari'a.  This al-Qaeda offshoot has ambitions to establish their own new world order based on a resurrection of the Islamic Caliphate.  As a loyal member and devout believer, Muhammad 'Abd al-Qader will perform any deed, commit any atrocity, to help his organization achieve that goal.

Al-Qader lives in a small, dusty, town in central Arabia where he adopts a completely different persona when he is not travelling the globe to perform "operations" for his organization.  Married, he dotes on his six-year old daughter hoping that she will one day be a star soccer player for the new Calphate's national team--unless the moon god cult people achieve their goal first.

OTHER CHARACTERS do appear in this story and do affect the outcome, but the ones mentioned above are the major players.