Jeffrey Dean is a former CIA courier.
He never really thought of himself as that, nor did anyone else. To the world, Jeffrey Dean was a journalist and a darn good one. For many, many years he travelled the world hunting stories of interest and import, usually working for Life magazine. This gave him the opportunity to tour places and see things that most people never did and, because Life was such a prestigious well known publication, he was often welcomed by people both friendly to and enemies with the American government.
Dean's attitude towards life and the people and things he wrote about can be summed up by "he was a man with few illusions about the world he lived in. It was not so much that he was cynical, for indeed he was not. It was more that he considered himself prepared."
Because of the freedom and reputation that he had with his profession, he was approached by an agent with the CIA, David Ketchum, who was interested in tidbits of information that Dean might have acquired. It was while reporting events in the Dominican Republic during a period of unrest. Dean decided his first priority was to his magazine but that whatever he did beyond that was his business and he helped out. He conveyed information into the region and brought back responses.
Afterwards, there were a couple more instances where Dean's help was needed and these needed activity considerably more involved than just extracurricular reporting. For his services, however, Dean refused to accept payment even though it was large and would have come in handy. He did it largely because it was something he could do and felt he should do.
As the series opens, Dean is now happily retired and able to earns a living in his favorite pasttime, a rare-book dealer. His passion for books caused him to amass a rather impressive amount of books, especially early editions, and that collection comprised the bulk of his stock. Many enjoyable days of yard sale and estate sale hunting allowed his stock to grow and with it his reputation. He knows a good find, deals honestly with sellers and buyers, and usually turns a nice profit. Sometimes, as with all businesses, things get a bit lean but they always rebound and he is happy.
Although he is no longer working with any spy agency, his old habits as a reporter and a CIA courier sometimes causes him to stick his nose into places it would be safer to avoid. His contacts in the intelligence community prove valuable when such times occur but they also bring old enemies and mistrust. The first book is a perfect example as a small action at a local book fair ends up attracting Ketchum and getting Dean involved with Libyan terrorists.
He has a partner and paramour named Rachel who shares his adventures and keep things interesting. Rachel has her own set of mores and ethics that, while not exactly conflicting with Dean's, sometimes go their separate ways.