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Full Name: Ben Sign
Nationality: British
Organization: MI6
Occupation Agent

Creator: Matthew Dunn
Time Span: 2018 - 2021


Ben Sign is a private investigator.

I had started to say that he "is an agent for MI6" because when we first meet him, that is the case. However, before we get too far along in spending time with Sign, we find we meet up with him around the time he decides it is appropriate for him to move to the next stage of his life.

We discover quite early that Sign has been an operative for 27 years. He was recruited while finishing up his college years as a graduate student at Oxford, the son of academics now deceased with no siblings.

One interesting thing we learn from that recruitment was that "some considered Sign to be too tall to be a spy". His recruiter had told him that "we need grey men who don't stand out" to which Sign "had replied that in order to play the grey man one needed to stand out". I am not quite sure what that reply meant but it was apparently enough to get the recruiter to smile and likely sealed the deal for entry into the Secret Intelligence Service.

Back to our meeting him, we are there when Sign decides it is time to move on. Though he was considered "the smartest man in MI6. One of the smartest men in the country", he had concluded he "no longer wanted to belong to an organization run by buffoons". He chose to instead work for himself as a "private consultancy" consulting on "crime, espionage, mysteries. That's what I do".

He also chose to take on an employee to get someone to help him. He was looking for someone "special", someone from a line of work different that Sign had enjoyed. He found that in Tom Knutsen, a Metropolitan police detective who had had an excellent career there and would likely have still been with them had a very bad man not killed his partner. When Knutsen found that bad man later and put a bullet in his head, it was unfortunate that there was CCTV evidence of it. So Knutsen was needing new employment right when Sign was looking.

Sign may no longer be in the British intelligence system, officially, but with the extensive experience he has, coupled with the now independence (read deniability) that he has, he and Knutsen will find themselves very popular men to call for help.


Number of Books:5
First Appearance:2018
Last Appearance:2021

1 The Spy Whisperer The Spy Whisperer
Written by Matthew Dunn
Copyright: 2018

The next head of MI6 will come from a list of six senior officers. When those on the list start to die by suicide, former operative Ben Sign is asked to look into who might be behind this improbable coincidence. While evidence looks like it was a foreign entity, Sign suspects one of the remaining people on the list.
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2 The Fifth Man The Fifth Man
Written by Matthew Dunn
Copyright: 2018

The fishing trawler that had been sailing around the Falkland Islands looked innocent and was ignored by the authorities there. It was, however, actually a spy ship from nearby Argentina. When four inebriated islanders decided to sail out and harass the ship, what happened there is unknown but their dead bodies found the next day told a horrible story. Ben Sign is asked by British Intelligence to investigate. He is reluctant to do so until he learns there that been a fifth man in the group and he escaped the mayhem and was in hiding.
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3 The Russian Doll The Russian Doll
Written by Matthew Dunn
Copyright: 2018

A senior MI6 officer, Jayne Archer, asks now private investigators Ben Sign and his partner Tom Knutsen to look into two things. The first is why a Russian double agent suddenly decided to stop working for Archer. The second is what happened to Archer's twin sister who was separated from her at birth in Moscow.
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4 The Kill House The Kill House
Written by Matthew Dunn
Copyright: 2019

The serial killer had a particularly heinous way of going about his horrific killings. He would use a human trafficking ring to smuggle in three people to work for him: a housekeeper, a cook, and a gardener. He would get to know them and become friendly with them and then kill them before ordering another trio of workers. Ben Sign and partner Tom Knutsen are told about these murders and decide they must look into it.
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5 The Spy Thief The Spy Thief
Written by Matthew Dunn
Copyright: 2021

Someone very high up in the British government has been stealing vital secrets and selling them to foreign entities. Ben Sign is asked to come out of retirement to find who this person, going by the nickname of The Thief, is. Sign discovers whoever that person is, he or she is very, very smart.
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Fun but perhaps frivolous word of advice on any of the books in this pretty enjoyable series: do not start reading if you are the least bit hungry. Ben Sign loves to cook and he does not stick with simple fare but goes for the more involved meals requiring a bit of planning and preparation, both of which are described to the reader in such a way as to make it a hoot. And I don't cook!

This series is a terrific combination of spy fiction and detective fiction and captures the suspense of the former and the mystery of the latter. I really enjoyed following Ben Sign and the cases he is asked to solve.


My Grade: A-


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