Rose Clarke is an agent with MI6.
John Fairchild is a freelance agent and adventurer.
We meet both of these individuals in separate, short adventures which take place some time before their lives will begin to intersect.
Our initial contact with Clarke occurs when she is a resident agent with the British Embassy in Zagreb, Croatia, part of a team looking into a growing organization of anti-Muslim extremists called the Crusaders, a 'sect' that wants to make a very loud, very lethal statement. A failure on this mission will result in her being in a very precarious situation professionally.
John Fairchild is introduced to us when he is in the Philippines and is asked to find the whereabouts of a group of people taken prisoner by Islamic militants and held somewhere in the jungle on one of the many islands in that chain. We are given a chance to see how someone of his experience and attitude handles tricky and dangerous problems.
In the first full-size adventure the two of them meet at the very beginning and it is an action-filled meeting, brought about on purpose by Clarke but ended by Fairchild though going in a direction neither expected nor wanted. Hardly the best way to start a partnership, if you can call it that.
In truth, I am certain neither of them are looking for a partnership. Clarke is, as mentioned, just getting over a failure that upsets her and which has upset the career path she has had for some time, being a determined and admittedly ambitious person. Fairchild is someone who relies largely on himself alone and who has no interest in working as part of a team. It seems there is a fair amount of growling at the other when they are near but both are good at their jobs.
The author has been kind enough to give these two synopses of the characters:
Growing up, he was a happy only child, often ensconced in boarding schools while his intellectually heavyweight parents pursued their diplomatic careers elsewhere in the world. But John Fairchild's childhood came to an abrupt end aged ten when his parents disappeared one evening, a story told in Reborn. Fairchild has been trying to solve this mystery ever since, and quickly became disillusioned with the authorities in his homeland, who he became convinced were covering up what really happened. Equipping himself with the skills needed to pursue the truth, he developed business interests and a network of loyal contacts all over the world. A speaker of multiple languages, Fairchild has no loyalty to anyone, least of all the country of his birth. He keeps in with the world of secret intelligence and his services are often in demand on a freelance basis. He's not an assassin - he's an information mercenary, collecting intelligence for a fee. But he will drop everything - and risk everything - for a chance to find out what happened all those years ago. He is utterly committed to this task, which is the only thing of importance in his life - until he meets Rose Clarke.
Leaving a top-class education with languages including French and Russian, Clarke travelled for a while before embracing the world of secret intelligence to escape the dull suburban life which had been her family's milieu until then. She served first in North Africa and was then posted to Zagreb, Croatia, where her promising career derailed after she failed to prevent a fatal attack on home turf. An old-school MI6 officer she's never met before makes her an offer: find John Fairchild and I will get you your job back and put everything straight. She doesn't have it in her to refuse, even when she knows how difficult the task will be. Rose only wants to do one thing with her life: save lives, British lives, through gathering intelligence. She knows she's good at it and isn't afraid of the murky decisions officers like her sometimes have to make. She's ambitious - why shouldn't she be? She has the skills and the determination to make it to the top. John Fairchild? He's just a globe-trotting mercenary of dubious loyalty, a means to an end. She doesn't welcome her involvement with him, but she'll use him if she has to.