Titus Cragg is the hero and narrator, and a lawyer of Preston and aged 40 in the first book, A Dark Anatomy. Apart from his own legal practice, Cragg is Coroner for Preston, with the job of holding inquests into unexpected deaths. This is not for him a matter of dull civic routine: Cragg is driven by the imperative to find out as much as he can about a case, in order to direct the local jury towards a just verdict. Cragg is bookish, civilized and compassionate but he is also pragmatic, and unlikely to be carried away by flights of fancy or idealism. He knows how the world works, in all its imperfections, and he tries to negotiate a path through these to reach his goal.
Luke Fidelis is Cragg’s friend, a young doctor who acts as a kind of pathologist. This is long before any such medical specialism existed, yet it was a golden age of enquiry into what was then called Natural Philosophy – that is, science – so Fidelis is a less unlikely figure than he might seem. Rational, experimental and quick-witted, he is a man of the Enlightenment, and of the future – a modern who acts as a foil to the more classical temperament of Cragg.
Elizabeth Cragg is Titus’s wife. Still in her twenties, she is quick witted and sensible, providing a valuable corrective to Titus’s more intellectual approach to life. The couple are childless.
Mathilda (Mattie) Bradshaw is a 14 year old orphan taken in by the Craggs as a household servant. Both are extremely fond of Mattie and treat her in many ways as a surrogate daughter.
Robert Furzey is Cragg’s clerk, who assists him in his legal practice and acts as his legal officer at inquests. Furzey is in his fifties and has a lugubrious, uncooperative outward manner but underneath is loyal to Titus and deeply knowledgeable about the law – he served as clerk to Titus’s father when he was Coroner.
Ephraim Grimshaw is a powerful local Burgess (councillor) of Preston. He has little respect for Cragg who he regards as a loose cannon, ever likely to upset the plans of the oligarchy that rules the town.
Oswald Mallender is the Sergeant responsible to the Bailiff (or Sherriff ) of Preston in matters of law and order. He has two constables under him, Esau and Jacob Parkin.