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A Hole in the Ground Owned by a Liar by Daniel Pyne

Daniel Pyne is well known as a screenplay writer for television and the big screen having worked on “The Manchurian Candidate,” “Fracture,” “Any Given Sunday,” and the new television show “Alcatraz.”  “A Hole in the Ground Owned by a Liar,” is a delightful, quirky work of literary fiction.  I guess it could classify as a mystery in that there is a murder that is ancillary to the main plot.  Whether or not the gold mine bought online and sight-unseen by the main character, Lee Garrison, will play out is a mystery of sorts.  Lee doesn’t really care.  He buys the Colorado mine for the adventure of it, not for the potential riches.  He buys it for something to do when he is not teaching, and to provide his brother with a livelihood when he gets out of prison for beating up the man Lee suspects is having an affair with his wife. (The man wasn’t; but he ends up marrying Lee’s former wife anyway.)

We meet a series of interesting, but flawed, characters in this book who come together to explore the mine and tap its potential.  Some are incompetent, like the mayor of the town that sits directly below the mine, and the county recorder.  Both offer their services in exchange for a portion of the take.  The mayor and the deed recorder provide a lot of the humor that is salted throughout the book.  Lee and his cohorts also fight a take-over bid by two wealthy brothers who make it their business to take over mines throughout the west on the chance that they will yield untapped riches.

I had a good time reading this action adventure novel.  It’s funny and there’s a nice little twist at the end. I learned more about mining and the history of the exploration that went on in the Colorado Rockies than I ever expected to.  The book took me back to several trips through the Colorado Rockies to some of the early mining towns. It definitely catches the flavor of the area and the people that make the old mining communities their home.  The name of the book is indicative of the practice of miners to lie about the whereabouts of their claims.  Even the deeds give faulty information to make sure no one jumps a claim.  While most of these mines have been abandoned since the 1930s, the recent rapid rise in the price of gold and silver have led to a new interest in clearing out old, caved-in mine shafts and looking for more hidden veins of ore.  It’s harder these days to hide a claim.

Liz Nichols

(Reviewed from a pre-publication copy.  Publication date: February 1, 2012.)

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