Lawrence 'Lawrie' Fenton is an agent with the British Foreign Office.
More specifically, he works as a field operative for the Intelligence Branch of that large and important government bureaucracy, an organization which apparently has supervisory oversight of the more well-known MI6 or Secret Intelligence Service. The Intelligence Branch is under the direction of Sir George Fawley and has been for quite a long time. Fawley is an interesting man on his own: "to see him in the street one would have taken him for a churchwarden, which he was, and a supporter of charities, also one of his virtues, though few people knew about it. But one would never have suspected that behind that smooth forehead lay secrets which, had he cared to publish them, would have shaken to their foundations half the chancelleries of Europe."
Fenton spends most of his time in some other country working on behalf of the Crown and, through it, British interests. Occasionally he is kept at home, usually on loan to another agency, like MI5, but he always seems to chafe when so limited. He far prefers to be out of country and relying on his own.
The opening paragraph of the first recorded adventure gives us a fascinating look and appraisal of the man: "Fenton could not have appeared more English if he had worn a Union Jack in the crown of his hat. Not that he would ever have deigned todo such a monstrous thing, for he was rather particular about is appearance and dress. He never dreamed of having his clothes made anywhere else but in Saville Row, and create more fuss about accurate fitting than is usually made about the laying down of a battleship".
We are also told that he was fair-haired and rather silly looking at times with a penchant for surveying a situation through his monocle. He was a "slim, tall figure" who would stride across a room as though he owned it. This air of control is perpetuated when we are told that he had spent "much time instructing [a bartender] in the delicate art of mixing cocktails". Another interesting point about Fenton is that he routinely spends a lot of time in lounges and cafes around Europe, referred to as "the aristocratic places" just watching and observing and listening, by which he invariably gains a lot of information about important customers that might have otherwise gone unknowing.
At the time, however, those who were used to seeing this immaculately dressed and proper acting individual almost haughtily purveying his surroundings would be astonished to know that the man seemed to also spend as much time "sauntering through the slums, talking in dirty taverns with the dregs of humanity, or dancing in cafes of doubtful reputation with hard-faced woman who had no reputation at all".
Fenton, we are told, "had an amazing knack of changing his personality with a much care as he changed his clothes, and he was equally at home in the salon of the Countess of Statz as in the arms of the quick-witted Ninon [an interesting woman to say the least] when they danced to the strains of an asthmatic accordion and a badly turned violin at the notorious haunt the Blue Toad". Thus Fenton could be cosmopolitan at times and dirty blue-collared at others, all with equal comfort and believability.
But then, at other times, perhaps because he is around close friends and family, including, interestingly, his "Uncle George", aka his usual boss Sir George, Fenton will appear extremely carefree, sometimes lounging "almost flat on his shoulders in a big leather armchair". At those times, "Fenton was one of those fair people whom the passing years do not seem to affect, and he had altered little since the days of their early adventures together. Even the monocle was still there, giving him that air of slight surprise which had proved so often a trap for the unwary".
Fenton, for all his perceived stoic 'English-ness', is very much appreciative of the opposite sex and is always receptive to their attention. He is not flippant and cavalier in such matters, however, and seems to attract strong women who are more than capable of looking after themselves. This will include two fascinating women who are operatives themselves and so able to share Fenton's dangers. Fenton will at different periods in his life spend a lot of time both professionally and personally with Stella and Alex.
- Fenton works under the cardinal rule to "Suspect everybody".
- In an opening conversation with a waiter in a cafe, Fenton chides, "I assure you that I am not the sort of man accustomed to hear naughty stories. All the same, if it's really funny ..."