Spy in Chancery – a 1970s spy thriller novel

Peter Craig’s crash course in espionage takes place in Rome, where he is seconded by S.3 – the Special Security Service – with orders to investigate a suspected KGB infiltration of the British Embassy, which has already resulted in the death of one MI6 officer.

Using his cover as a security advisor, Craig investigates the Embassy’s intrigues and clashing motivations to find the spy, with the help of an Ambassador whose disdain for the ‘dreadfully sordid business’ of espionage takes a back seat when he sees a chance to settle old scores with a little ‘disinformatsiya’ of his own.

Within the week, Spy in Chancery‘s cast of players has grown to encompass the CIA, private detectives and the Mafia, and with a daring ruse to flush out the spy, Craig makes himself and his friends into targets for the Kremlin.

Praise for Spy in Chancery

“Civilised and witty, Kenneth Benton’s Spy in Chancery is yet another proof that the spy story is still a viable form of entertainment.
In the British Embassy in Rome, where Mr Benton worked for seven years, top-secret information is being leaked to the Russians, and Peter Craig, Mr Benton’s convincingly authentic secret-service man, has to persuade the affronted ambassador that he has a traitor in his midst. There are some excellent character sketches, including the ambassador, who develops a liking for what he calls ‘this sordid intelligence business’, and excitement depends, not on sex or violence, but solely on the development of the plot.”
— Daily Telegraph, Violet Grant, 6.7.1972

“Which one of the secretaries of the British Embassy in Rome—Janet or Diana—is working for the Russians? That’s the job for undercover police operative Peter Craig in this fast-moving spy thriller. Details of the sophistication of bugging equipment will amaze even the Watergate generation, and for once, the Mafia is on our side.”
— Army Times, 9.5.1973

“Most of the action of Spy in Chancery takes place in Rome, where a British agent is trying to locate a leak in the ambassador’s office. Benton, who seems to be up on every aspect of code-breaking techniques, goes into great detail about the modus operandi of the Russian and British technologists. It is all thrust and counter-thrust—tense, but quiet for the most part. The ending, however, is explosive. Benton is one of those leisurely Englishmen who has a civilised, cultured style, and who knows how to get the reader involved in a complicated chess game of competing secret agencies. It is almost a case-history he has written, except that the characters are firmly drawn. The heroics are no less vital for being unostentatious.”
— New York Times Book Review, 3.6.1973

“Kenneth Benton generates genuine cloak-and-dagger espionage excitement.”
— Columbus, Ohio Dispatch, 2.9.1973

“Here is a well-crafted story of counterespionage in Rome by an excellent writerwho knows cloak-and-daggering as intimately as the Eternal City. Kenneth Benton is a retired British diplomat, who also headed his country’s operations against Nazi intelligence in Spain during World War II. […] The hare-and-hounding on the Tiber never lets up, and the identity of Craig’s quarry is kept tantalisingly hidden from both he and the reader until the last moment. Characters and backdrop are wonderfully realised.”
— Buffalo, NY News, 2.2.1974

“The intrigue is sophisticated, the reader’s mind is sent on a false track on the first page, and there is a train of delightful move and counter-move.”
— Lancashire Evening Post, 29.7.1972

“Benton has a way of thinking up new twists and keeping secrets which would in any case set this well-paced yarn above most of the field.”
— San Francisco Sunday Examiner

“Our embassy in Rome has been infiltrated again. Suspects narrow down to one of two beautiful, long-legged upper-class girl PAs, neither of whose anatomies can be identified in the compromising obscene photographs. Spy-spotting by Peter Craig of the security service is hampered by the doddering ambassador, who fancies himself as a detective. Thrillerish developments.”
— Maurice Richardson, Observer, 2.7.1972

“Mr Benton presents a plausible and fast-moving plot, which will please all espionage addicts.”
– Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph 10.8.1972

“Inside our Rome embassy, which secretary is the traitor? Story swirls you through day-to-day details, plentiful as nuts at a cocktail party.”
— HRF Keating, Times

Spy in Chancery is an intelligent, civilised and entirely believable picture of sophisticated espionage at high level. The reader will thrill and quake along with intelligence operator Peter Craig as he goes about the business of cornering another Russian spy.”
Birmingham, Alabama News, 26.8.1973