Selena Mead is an agent with Section Q.
She was born Selena Brennan, raised in the lap of luxury as the daughter of two parents who were each extremely wealthy. Her father, an ambassador, traveled extensively around the world and Selena saw most there was to see as she grew up and learned to feel comfortable in many unusual places. She attended the best schools and went to the best parties. She certainly didn't suffer from want as she grew up and she knew she would always have plenty of security. It was excitement that she had precious little of and no prospects of any.
As the series begins, Selena has just graduated from one of the Seven Sisters universities. Her marriage to Raymond, a scion of another rich and influential families, was set to take place six months after the Commencement ceremonies and her mother was making sure it was the event of the year. But for Selena the chance to do something interesting and unplanned was pulling on her/
She elected to take a cruise to Europe and then a series of visits to the places she knew growing up, a chance to meet old friends and reuse the many languages she had learned like French, Spanish, Italian, German, and even a dialect of Arabic spoken in North Africa. It was on the last leg of this trip, a stop in Berlin, that changed her life forever.
The events in the first book detail her foray into the world of espionage and how she came to become involved with the highly secret Intelligence bureau known only as Section Q, run by the personable Hugh Pierce. It also explains how she meets Simon Mead, an agent with Q, falls in loves with him, marries him, and settle down for a life together. It does so rather quickly, allowing eight years of marriage to pass in just a paragraph as the story moves to the death of her husband and her entry into the spy world herself to catch the killers.
Selena is highly intelligent and resourceful. She is also a wonderful example of the transition of the role of women in espionage. She does not shirk from danger or the threat of death and she is even willing, if it is absolutely necessary, to bed her quarry but she is abhorred that her reputation with the neighbors might be compromised.
It is interesting that if written five years earlier, she probably would never have thought of doing such things while five years later, she likely wouldn't care what the neighbors thought.
Note: The first book, while complete, is actually an apparent amalgam of stories from This Week and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. As such, it tends to jump a bit as the author quickly segued between what had been various short stores. The original stories from which the book was constructed were:
Legacy of Danger
View By Moonlight
Selena in Atlantic City
Selena Robs the White House
Ladies with a Past
Note: Two other stories which were not included in any book were Hide-and-Seek - Russian Style, published in 1976, and The Writing on the Wall, which came out in 1978. The former was published as one of the stories in an anthology called Cloak and Dagger in 1988.
Note: In 1964, one year after the first short story appeared, CBS announced that it had added Selena Mead to its drama schedule for the next year. The acclaimed actress Polly Bergen had agreed to play the espionage agent. The show was to have been a half hour long and would likely have been aired on Saturdays, later changed to Mondays. When, however, Ms. Bergen asked that filming be delayed so she might do a movie first, it was dropped.