Giancarlo Melrose is an agent for the CIA.
Born to an Italian woman and an American father, Giancarlo was a young child living with his parents in Genoa when, during the early days of WWII, his parents died in an air attack. He was taken in by his maternal grandmother but money was non-existent and life was harsh for this pre-teen boy. He learned to survive in the tough war-torn streets even after his grandmother died and he became a war orphan.
In the immediate years after the War, a wealthy American couple named Melrose, unable to have a child of their own, traveled to Italy and picked him from the orphanage. Suddenly the young man went from abject poverty to the best of everything, including ivy-league schools and the chance for an executive white-collar profession.
For reasons not adequately discussed, Melrose chose to not enter the expected workforce but instead returned to the land of his birth as an agent for the CIA. The identity of the agency is not revealed until the third book. In the first, no name is given at all and in the second it is just stated that his boss worked for the American Counter-Intelligence.
As an agent, Melrose uses as his cover the role of photographer for the International Educational Council, a bureau dedicated to eliminating illiteracy around the world. This organization was a legitimate charity employing several hundred people around the world but it was also a front for the agency for which Melrose worked. His immediate boss in Rome both for the IEC and the ACI is a man named Harrigan, a man who has considerable respect for Melrose even as he realizes that the young man still has the impetuousness of youth to contend with.
Giancarlo Melrose is a tall, lithe, very handsome man in his late twenties, comfortable in high society and in the dark alleyways of his youth. He is good with a gun though he does not like using them, an expert with a knife which he carries at all times, and deadly with karate first learned in college from a Japanese classmate.