Book Review: The Drop by Dennis Lehane

Title: The Drop

Author: Dennis Lehane

Genre: Crime Thriller

Number of Pages: 224

Rating: B+

Recommended?: Yes

This is my first Dennis Lehane book in a long time, even though he’s one of my favorite authors. It started out as a short story (‘Animal Rescue’) in a collection titled Coronado, and when ‘Animal Rescue’ was adapted into a movie starring Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace, Dennis Lehane wrote this after it was released to build on the characters and storyline. The plot centers around Bob, a lonely misfit who works as a bartender at his cousin Marv’s establishment. A few days before Christmas, Bob discovers an abused pit bull puppy in a trash can.

He’s not a dog person and is reluctant about keeping him, but a woman named Nadia helps him figure out how to take care of him and train him. Bob names him Rocco, after the patron saint of pilgrimages and dogs. The cousin’s bar has criminal connections and serves as a ‘drop point’ for the Chechen mob, and there’s more to Bob than meets the eyes. The place is robbed by two men, and the theft provokes the ire of the people they work Cousin Marv works for.

Dennis Lehane is a really strong writer of dialogue and that’s abundantly obvious in this slim but compelling crime novel. I thought it was hilarious how unattractive Bob was supposed to be because hello, Tom Hardy. The book version of Nadia wasn’t a looker either. I wondered if the author did this deliberately to separate the book from the movie (since the movie came first) and so the readers would be less likely to picture the film’s actors when they were reading the book.

Bob was a complex character who I wanted to like even though I knew I probably shouldn’t, because of the things he had been involved in. I love the relationship between Bob and Rocco and how the puppy brings Bob closer together with Nadia. You get chapters that more or less focus on different characters and the events that brought them to where they are now, including Eric, the guy who abused Rocco and is Nadia’s ex-boyfriend. He was a fucking lowlife from the beginning and it’s safe to say that he did not leave prison a better person.

Despite its brevity I found this book a little hard to follow at times, probably because it’s more plot-driven than the stuff I usually read. Nevertheless, I was entranced once again by Lehane’s gritty urban setting and spectacular attention to character detail. I’m a huge dog lover and used to own a pit bull mix so I was won over by the aspect of the story, the animal cruelty isn’t graphic and is only portrayed fleetingly (which can’t be said for the cruelty to human characters, but people don’t seem to care so much about that.)

Anybody whose adopted an animal can relate to Bob’s developing love for the puppy and his determination to protect him from further mistreatment. Since it’s so short, this would be a great book to start with for people who are interested in reading Dennis Lehane’s work. It’s both violent and tender and the morally gray characters are a delight to read about, despite the darkness inherent in the storyline.

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