ANDREW GARVE – A Hole in the Ground. Dell, paperback reprint D275, 1959; Great Mystery Library #21. UK edition: Collins Crime club, hardcover, 1952. US First Edition: Harper & Brothers, 1952. Also: Pan #343, UK, pb, 1955; Lancer 72-730, US, pb, 1964.

ANDREW GARVE A Hole in the Ground

   I’d read quite a few of Andrew Garve’s novels, but I never heard of this one until I came across it on a sidewalk table at Barnes and Noble’s.

   Laurence Quilter is the Labour Party Member of Parliament for the area around the town of Blean in West Cumbria. He has a wealthy background and a wife named Jane. They have recently donated his family’s large house to the National trust and moved into a cottage on the estate and he is up for re-election. He is bitterly disappointed that he has never been given a position in the ruling Labour Party’s government.

   While looking through some old papers from his donated house, he comes across a crude map made by his great grandfather nearly a century before. It seems to indicate that somewhere on his land is the entrance to a large cave his ancestor discovered but didn’t make public.

ANDREW GARVE A Hole in the Ground

   While his wife is away visiting friends, he discovers the entrance to the cave and decides to contact a young School Master/ spelunker he knows named Peter Antsley. They explore the cave and find an underground river some 200+ feet below ground reached by going down rope ladders.

   On their second trip, Quilter takes a nap while Antsley does some exploring on his own. Outside, a storm rages which causes the underground river to flood and when Antsley’s foot gets caught and he calls for help, Quilter is too afraid to help him and Antsley drowns.

   Quilter decides to cover up his cowardice and tell no one. He takes his wife on vacation to France but when there is a mining accident in his district, he returns home leaving her. While in France they had meet Ben Traill, an American geologist who works for an oil company.

ANDREW GARVE A Hole in the Ground

   With Quilter in England, Jane and Ben spend so much time together that they fall in love. Finally, Jane decides to go home to confront her husband and from there, during the last 30 pages or so, the story takes a turn into left field.

   You might think that Quilter has been spending his time further covering up Antsley’s death, even though the dead man’s wallet has been found and the police know that Antsley had been in touch with Quilter shortly before he disappeared, but that isn’t the case at all.

   Let’s just say there’s an unnamed reference to a well-known British spy case that first hit the headlines circa 1950 and, though Garve didn’t know it at the time, the case would return two more times to the headlines in the ensuing decades.

   I don’t know if Garve wrote himself into a corner and came up with this lollapoloosa of an ending to get out or what. All I know is that this is the poorest book by Garve I’ve read. Fortunately, he went on to write much better stuff.