Joseph Hanna is an agent with American Intelligence.
Rachel Ram is an agent with the Israeli Mossad.
Exactly what department inside the American intelligence community Hanna once worked for and will again is not clear. He is handled/controlled by a particularly odious man named Rotterdam though manipulated is a better word for it, but who that person answered to is unknown.
When we first meet him, Joseph Hanna is referred to Dr. Hanna then (doctor of what, though, I do not know). He is undergoing immense despair when we first meet him, suffering from the loss of his wife, but solaced by their young daughter, Leila. They are visiting the Lincoln Memorial when a terrorist attack leaves him thrust even deeper into horrible grief.
We learn later that prior to these events, Hanna had made a very impressive name for himself in the Middle East during the first Gulf War when he took on the challenge of fighting back Iraqi forces from Kuwait. He held the rank of Major in the Rangers but his work also dealt a great deal with the clandestine side of things. He is referred in a blurb as "America's finest Middle East spy". Whatever took him from his work in Kuwait and Iraq back to the States and life outside of Montpelier, that ended when he lost his daughter to Islamic extremism.
Rachel Ram is a Captain in the Israeli military but she answers to the bosses of its vaunted Mossad. She has been with that organization for some time. She was born in Baghdad and lived there for the first ten years of her life, up to the point where a very fickle Saddam Hussein decided he no longer needed the educated and skilled Jews who had lived in his country for over two millineia. After a horrific struggle with Iraqi soldiers that left her mother dead, her father and she moved to Israel.
Once she became an operative, it became apparent that her ferocity and her skills made her particularly good at one task - finding and killing the enemy. As a result she became of the Mossad's fiercest assassins.
Hanna and Ram will become partners in the war against some particularly nasty terrorists and become partners in love as their mutual struggles push them into intimacy. It will be a tenuous one for a while as any such relationship that also involves keeping some pretty important secrets from the other.
- "War is never black and white, but subtle shades of dirty gray."
- Regarding the ease of smuggling arms into Iraq, Rachel Ram exclaims, "The Gulf coast is porous as a screen door."