Nick Hellyer is an agent with MI6.
Make that an "accidental spy" as used in the blurbs. He had no plans for his sudden career shift and would never have chosen such an unusual one but as Hellyer finds out the hard way, life often throws a curve ball.
The time frame for Hellyer's foray into the cloak and dagger world is 1967. A new instructor with a PhD at Cambridge, Hellyer makes a phenomenally stupid move when he first agrees to try the latest rage - in this case dropping acid - and then getting arrest for marijuana possession. The political climate at the time meant that after he was ousted, which he was immediately, he looked at a bad time in prison. But there was a chance to avoid the latter by accepting a teaching position in far-off Egypt, though naturally there was a whole lot more to the offer and the job.
Now to clarify, Hellyer is not a total innocent who gets roped into things but he is certainly not an experienced operative the least bit prepared for the kind of things he will find himself dealing with once he accepts the offer. He is very smart and quite resourceful which will be vital to his survival when put into a line of work where a mistake can kill you. Worse yet for Hellyer, he has a personal set of ethics which will conflict with the sort of things his job, and his survival, will push him to do.
The organization for which Hellyer goes to work does not really have a name, he is told by his new boss, Major Quinlevan, nicknamed 'Q'. "Welcome to the Intelligence Service. Don't bother with acronyms like MI5 and MI6 here - all a bit blurred nowadays, don't you know? Just think of ourselves as Intelligence - diplomacy by another name." His interpretation of 'diplomacy' will prove to be outside normal.