Joe Johnson is a private investigator.
Most of the time, anyways. It pays the bills and usually doesn't keep him away from home in the evenings which gives him time to be with his children, Carrie and Peter, both teenagers or near it when we first meet him. His wife had passed away a half decade before from cancer so it was the three of them, plus Johnson's older sister and her husband who help mind the kids when he is away.
And he is away a good deal. He says stridently that he hates it and there is no doubt he does but he also finds he misses the excitement of the old days when he is back home in Portland, Maine, looking into fairly mundane matters that come his way.
The old days just mentioned were first when he was in his mid-to-late 20's in the second half of the 1980's and worked for five years as a field operative with the CIA. His time was spent mostly in the Afghanistan area helping the mujaheddin fight their protracted war with the Soviets. It came to an end when duplicity back at home got too much to let him stay in that job.
This was followed by quite a few years working for the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) for the Justice Department and the work that fulfilled him the most. In his OSI role, he specialized in seeking out and hunting down war criminals whether it be those still hiding out from the Second World War or, as time went by, new ones in the Balkan Wars. Johnson was very good at his job because he had "a passion for justice and a drive to investigate unsolved war crimes in different parts of the world. In particular, he is frustrated by the sectarian and religious conflicts that generally lie behind such crimes."
When his wife grew ill and finally lost her battle, he quit his job with the OSI and moved his young family to Maine so his sister could help raise them. He fully expected to stay there doing his local investigations or the occasional lecture on war crimes until retirement but even though he is in his early 50's, he is still an active man who keeps good care of himself which is important because the calls for "just one more helping hand" from this old friend or that inevitably takes him to far off places where lots of people have lost of secrets they will keep to keep hidden.