Henry Crowne is an agent with MI6.
He will be. After a while, at least.
Before then he will go through a major upheaval in his life and be put through tremendous troubles, most caused by his own actions. He will start out as an up-and-coming player in the financial world in London, responsible for billions in trades and manipulating the futures of companies big and small. He will undergo a substantial (read, total) drop in fortunes, all told in the first recorded adventure.
After that he will be presented with opportunities to improve his lifestyle, not to mention actually get out from behind bars by providing assistance to the British authorities, that help leading to actual employment and becoming, as mentioned at the top, an operative for Her Majesty's Government.
There have been several other entries in this compendium in which the protagonist is a previous or ongoing malefactor before going to work for the government. I believe this is the first in which the individual is an expert in the ultra-high stakes financial world.
I admit that I would be lost in the tangled and befuddling technology used repeatedly by Crowne or those he deals with were it not for the fact that, luckily for those of us ignorant in such matters, there are a few other players in these adventures who have to have things 'dumbed down' for them (and me). It is fun to watch Crowne get testy at times with such ignorance; surprisingly this both makes Crowne at times seem more of a jerk and also makes me like him more.
It is not giving away anything more than already stated in the blurbs for these tales that Crowne has a history with the IRA. This will be a major cause for his downfall and for the reason that British Intelligence will be interested in his working for them later on. His understanding of and skill with money manipulation is very valuable to both those wanting to hurt the government and those wanting to protect it.
The old adage that 'it takes a thief to catch a thief' is very much in play here. Crowne is not a thief per se but in the context of having to unravel the often confusing financial transaction shenanigans shadowy organizations and demagogues get involved with, it helps to have someone experienced in such dealings.
Playing major roles in the first three adventures are two characters that I find even more interesting than Crowne.
Nancy Wu is a renowned Queen's Counsel who gets pulled into Crowne's world because she has her own flat on the same penthouse level he does and has an interest in art like him. When Crowne's world heads swiftly to the drain, he calls upon her for help. I savor every moment she is 'on stage'.
Inspector Pole is a very experience and well respected detective with Scotland Yard who heads up a small team of investigators. It will be he and his people that go after Crowne and it will be he that will find using Crowne's help later as both necessary and unwanted.
A series' enjoyability is greatly helped by interesting characters and these two are well worth having more adventures told about them.
There is a subtitle for the series - Paying the Price - which is very important to understanding and appreciating these tales. Crowne's past will push him to make certain decisions so as to pay the price for that past. He will then be forced by law to pay the price for those decisions. And he will be offered a chance to pay the price for his re-entry into society.