Edge—or to give her full name, Beulah Edgington Cameron, previously Bentwood, born Cameron—turned 58 in the book Seven Eight Play It Straight. She is decidedly attractive, with heavy shoulder-length hair, still red-gold but not as bright as in her youth, which is usually piled on her head in a casual knot; beautiful eyes; and a very determined chin. She is slender and in good health, around 5’6” tall, and without looking younger than her age, attracts interested glances. Her first husband, James Bentwood, was wealthy, successful, and 18 years her senior, with 2 children from a failed marriage. They lived in South Africa until his first wife died and they had to return to Scotland to give his children a home. It was a contented marriage and when she was widowed in her forties, she was lonely enough to sign up with an introduction agency. Alistair Cameron (a distant relative) was some years younger, but their attraction was immediate and mutual. Their marriage was extremely happy and she was devastated when he died unexpectedly only 8 years later. She moved to the Grasshopper Lawns Retirement Village at the age of 55 and enjoys the convenience of independence in a sociable environment. She is a moderately successful scriptwriter who never had to work for a living, but enjoyed being involved in a production team and has earned herself a respectable reputation in a very competitive world. In Five Six Pick Up Sticks she ‘inherited’ a marmalade cat, Mortimer. She has little family but is very close to her niece Kirsty Cameron, who is very like her in looks and works for the local police.
Vivian Oliver (born Fotheringham) and Edge have been friends from early childhood. Where Edge was a shy child, Vivian was gregarious and outgoing from the start, growing into a tall (5’10”) and classically beautiful woman with a wonderful smile, and a world-class soprano voice. She trained for opera, but gave up a promising future to marry Gordon Oliver, some years older than herself and already a successful financier. They lived in South Africa, where they were friendly with James Bentwood, who was godfather to their daughter. Edge came from Scotland to be a godmother, and married James only a few months later. Gordon and Vivian returned to Scotland when he realized he had a degenerative heart condition, so that his unsuspecting wife would have her parents, family and friends there for support when he died. She was left very well off but had withdrawn into herself and was eating herself into obesity before Edge ruthlessly bullied her into applying to move to the Lawns. In Five Six Pick Up Sticks Vivian starts singing again in amateur productions and is rather pleased to find she still has a very good voice. Her dress sense is erratic, she prefers colour and comfort to style, and she is of generous build. Her looks are less remarkable now than in her youth but her bone structure is superb and her smile still beautiful. She owns an elderly Labrador, Buster.
William Robertson is simply enormous. He is described in early books as looking like Henry VIII in the Holbein portrait of the aging king. He is well over 6 feet tall, with unusually broad and powerful shoulders, and an impressive paunch, dark red hair and a red well-trimmed beard, neither of which are ever allowed so much as a thread of grey. In earlier books he walked with 2 sticks, although as his general health improves he, as often as not, only carries one in the later books. Fiona Bentwood once described him as notoriously having a salacious sex-life from the time he was old enough to hold a stripper above his head. His past has certainly been racy, with a string of relationships, one failed marriage, and no children. He has degrees in History, Astronomy and one or two other fields that have interested him over the years, and is a fairly successful SF author with an enviable reputation in the genre. He owns one of the few bungalows at Grasshopper Lawns and has lived there over 4 years, so must be at least 59, but is extremely cagey about his age.
Donald MacDonald is slim, a little over average height, around 5’10”, and extremely good-looking, with the kind of looks that improve with age. He has startlingly blue frosty eyes, a remote manner, and is self-contained to the point of seeming anti-social. He went into the theatre at an early age and was reasonably successful as a singer-dancer in an era when musicals like Grease and Rocky made good money as touring stage-shows in the 70s and 80s. A scandal ended his stage career and he became a choreographer instead, occasionally investing in shows and becoming increasingly more involved on the production side as the years went by. He is 59, graceful in his movements, and usually assumed to be gay. His hair is charcoal grey and in winter his skin looks sallow, bronzing swiftly with the return of the sun. He favours dark well-cut clothes, looks good in leather and knows it, and can be cuttingly sarcastic, but is a loyal and protective friend, and a conscientious owner to his whippet Odette.
There are any number of regulars at the Lawns but the above quartet became friends in the first book and are the central characters in all the subsequent ones. The local police appear in every book, too: especially Kirsty and Iain.
Sergeant Kirsty Cameron is Edge’s niece and very like her, except that her hair is vividly red and usually rigidly scraped back to downplay her good looks. She is in her mid-twenties at the start of the series, passionately interested in her job as a police officer and enjoying working with the new commanding officer DI Iain McLuskie at the Onderness police station. She starts the series involved with an unusually good-looking wannabe pop singer but he takes off to greener grass and she meets and falls in love with Drew McKenzie. Their relationship stays for the most part in the far background of the books. One reason Edge and Kirsty are so close is that her mother died when she was a toddler and Kirsty went to live in South Africa with her uncle and aunt. Her father remarried and has twin sons with his second wife. When the Bentwoods returned to Scotland Kirsty was reunited with her father but spent a great deal of time still with her aunt, and they remain very close.
Detective Inspector Iain McLuskie is enjoying an excellent career in the police since his transfer south to the Onderness area shortly before the start of the series. He is a pleasant-looking family man in his mid-to-late forties, happily married, with an accent that leans noticeably back towards its northern roots when the pressure is on. Thanks at least in part to Edge and her friends, he built a useful reputation for solving tricky cases and, when Police Scotland combined operations in April 2013, transferred to HQ. He remains loyal to his old staff, especially Kirsty, and stays in regular contact with them.
Grasshopper Lawns is not a conventional retirement village. It is run by a Trust which was set up by a very successful businesswoman who wanted to spend her autumn years with interesting people. Applicants have to be healthy, independent, and have had an intriguing past. They are interviewed for selection by a representative of the Trust, one of the five Lawns managers, and a member of the residents association. There are only 26 residents and they include an actress who ran a successful brothel, an ex-mercenary, a former missionary from the WHO – the ones who feature regularly are:
Sylvia, English, a petite and malicious blonde and former Cold War spy in #2 who appears in all the books, particularly in Three Four
Matilda in #3 is quiet, dumpy and nondescript, mentioned in most of the books, comes to the fore in Seven Eight, where it is revealed she was a successful songwriter, particularly in the 70s.
Major Horace, a pest and lecher with unexpected redeeming qualities, who moves to #1, is in all the books – perhaps most prominently in Nine Ten
Olga, a Russian ballerina who defected during the Cold War and Edge’s neighbour in #11, is in many of the books, particularly Thirteen Fourteen
Miss P, painfully refined, a writer of a stream of gentle romantic novels and a Wiccan witch, in #13, first appears in Five Six but is particularly prominent in Eleven Twelve, which is also the book which brings Beulah Quinn, Edge’s acerbic and alarming aunt, to the Lawns.
Brian, with his beagle Archie, a semi-retired PI and keen walker and climber in #8, comes to the fore in Five Six
Clarissa, flutingly English, with her bulldog Maggie, is a retired archaeologist and acknowledged expert on the Antonine Wall. She rents the bungalow next door to William’s and first appears in Three Four, also playing a central role in Eleven Twelve.
Hamish, the Bursar, a garrulous little widower who is extremely good at his job and nicknamed “Of Course Kirby” by Sylvia, is in most of the books but features prominently in Nine Ten
Katryn, the South African administrator, appears in Three Four for the rest of the series. She’s in her forties, sturdy and forceful, and dyes her hair platinum blonde. She and the young and popular Matron are the only Trust staff who live in, with comfortable apartments in the main house at the Lawns.
Patrick Fitzpatrick is not a Lawns resident and couldn’t ever be as he has a large family, but he recommended Edge’s move there and has been her accountant, friend and occasional escort since James Bentwood died. He is nearing retirement age, a large, shrewd, and genial, Irish widower.