Avarice of Empire

In memory of Captain Charles Agnew who died by the hand of an assassin in Egypt 22nd March 1873 (Canterbury Cathedral)
A stone tablet in Canterbury Cathedral’s south aisle reads:


Every day for the past century and a half that unique turn of phrase has made people stop and wonder…

  • Who was Captain Charles Agnew?
  • What was he doing in Egypt?
  • How and why was he killed, and by whom?

Avarice of Empire answers those questions by telling the true story of Charles Agnew’s life as a cavalry officer in India and his death in Egypt.

Spanning eight years, and with a strong sense of place, it is also about the fortitude of Victorian women, class division and colonial prejudice, early photography and the embryonic intelligence service, a revolution in global communications, and how an Irishman discovered what would become India’s largest gold mine.

Avarice of Empire is a work of biographical historical fiction and Iain Harper’s debut novel.

Current status:
Unpublished / Beta Reading / Querying Agents

16th (Queen's) Lancers

Story Locations

Beta Reader Feedback

“An engaging and beautifully written story that captivates with its historical detail and draws the reader into the lives of an intriguing group of people from the past.”

“Superb storytelling and I learnt loads. Love the twists and connections. Fascinating.”

“Fantastic historical detail…”

“I really love your writing style… I am in awe of your talent!”

“Deserves to be published.”

“I love your descriptions. They’re more powerful for their thoughtful inclusion – and vivid without being overly waffly.”

“I like how you have so respectfully dealt with the appalling racism of those times.”

“I don’t usually read historical fiction, but I really enjoyed this and I learned a lot. The amount of research that’s obviously gone into it is incredible!”

“I liked how you captured his [Charles’s] relationship with his sister throughout the story…”

“I found the history and detail about locations particularly insightful, especially as someone who has never been to any of the places in the book and who prior to this frankly knew very little about the British involvement in India and just life in general back in the 1800s!”

“Great job. Obviously a huge amount of research has gone into this. Fantastic!”

“The character descriptions – visual and otherwise – made them real people and I cared about them.”

“I love the way you have written in the language of the times, and so consistently too. You have great flow.”

Colours at Canterbury Cathedral

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