The Drop, Dennis Lehane – Book Review

Advanced reader copy received from publisher via NetGalley.

Release date (UK): 28th August 2014.

View on Amazon

The Drop is the first book I received an advanced copy of through NetGalley. Given the author’s kudos, I was very excited to get to read this before its official publication.

This novel has an interesting back story as it actually started out as a film, which is due out in October. Lehane wrote the screenplay and then wrote this short novel to support it. So rather than the usual book-to-film transition, The Drop was created in reverse.

The Drop

The novel tells the story of barman Bob Saginowski who spends his nights working in Cousin Marv’s bar. Bob is lonely and reclusive; he longs for love but holds back in social interactions for fear of getting too close and inevitably hurting somebody. He reflects that others think of him as “Odd, lonely Bob the bartender. Nice enough guy, can be depended on to help shovel a walk or buy a round, a good guy, but so shy you couldn’t hear what he was saying half the time, so you gave up, tossed him a polite nod, and turned to someone else.”

So Bob lives a solitary life, keeping himself to himself. Until one day, three days after Christmas, he is walking home from his night shift and discovers a dog who has been abandoned amongst the trash. The kind soul in Bob can’t help but take in the dog, who has clearly been abused by his previous owner, and it is this small act of kindness which triggers a series of changes in Bob’s uneventful life.

Through the dog, who he names Rocco after the Patron Saint, Bob meets Nadia Dunn who helps him nurse Rocco back to health. As the three of them spend time together, Bob doesn’t know that the dog’s psychopathic owner, Eric Deeds, is just about to attempt to destroy Bob’s newfound friendships.

Meanwhile, at the seedy bar where Bob works, things are getting more and more unpleasant. The bar is not owned by Cousin Marv, but by a group of Chechen gangsters and, as well as serving drinks to the locals, it is also used for more seedy, underhand practises. Things begin to come to a head when the bar is subject to a robbery, and Bob and Cousin Marv are left to explain to the mobsters where their money has gone.

What Lehane does well is create atmosphere, and in this novel that atmosphere is tense, gritty and dark, with crime noir stamped all over it. It’s not for the faint-hearted, as the book is packed with swearing, brutality and bloodshed but, whilst gangsters aren’t usually really my thing, it was the character of Bob which drew me in and kept me entranced throughout. The story shuffles through a cast of varied, interconnected characters, but it is Bob is the real anchor, bringing hope to an otherwise dark tale as we see him grow throughout the tale, gradually gaining more confidence, as he goes from a shy guy living a mundane existence to a strong, self-assured figure whose role is pivotal in this dark Boston underworld.

This is a short novel, and at times it does feel a little more like a screenplay for a movie; it’s very dialogue heavy with abrupt scene changes which can throw you off the story. However I may have picked up on this more because I was aware of the book’s background before reading.

The savage story drives to a shocking climax, the sort that made me have to read it again to make sure I’ve got it right. In the final chapters Lehane veers the story in a completely different direction to what I expected it to take and The Drop’s ending left me feeling lost, but in a good way.

Now, I’ve got the movie to look forward to, and the trailer looks promising…

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Filed under Book Reviews, Crime, Drama

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