Friday, September 5, 2014

Book Review: "The Drop" by Dennis Lehane

It all started with a puppy.

Bob Saginowski is a sad-sack bartender, living in the house he grew up in, spending his time shuffling between work, home, and mass at his childhood church. He's a loner; his only real companion (and that's a bit of a stretch) is his cousin Marv, who used to own the bar Bob works at, although the bar is now really owned by Chechen mobsters. Bob spends his days wishing for a way out of his loneliness, and he's hiding a secret or two as well.

One cold winter night while walking home from work, he finds a badly beaten puppy in a trash can. Although the responsibility of caring for something scares him, he rescues the dog and ultimately bringing it home with him. When he finds the dog he also encounters Nadia, a world-weary woman who has seen more than her share of problems. Without expecting it, he finds himself caring for both Nadia and the dog and is utterly unprepared for how it feels.

But all is not rosy for Bob—not only is his church closing, but the bar gets robbed, he catches the eye of a dogged cop determined to make something of himself again, and the dog's original owner, an unstable ex-con with an agenda of his own, returns and wants what he believes is his. It's more than enough to make Bob wonder what path he should follow, and what the consequences of his actions will be.

Dennis Lehane is one of my favorite authors of all time. While this isn't as good as Mystic River or a number of his Kenzie and Gennaro novels, I really like Lehane best when his writing leans more toward grittier, violent character studies than some of the historic material he's covered in his last two books. I love his use of language, both in dialogue and description, and while not everything that happens in the book is surprising, he still knows how to create some good tension.

I learned after I read The Drop (in a little more than one day) that it is an expansion of a short story Lehane wrote in 2009, which explains why, even at just under 250 pages, I felt the book was a little short, and would have liked more time with Bob, Marv, Nadia, and even Detective Torres. There was a lot of intriguing material that could have been developed further, although I didn't feel as if the book ended abruptly or was too short.

I forgot that a movie adaptation of this book is due out later this year. While I try not to read books that close to a movie adaptation (especially one with a little suspense in it), I'm looking forward to seeing how the actors bring to life the characters I've pictured in my head. If you're not planning to see the movie, and you enjoy crime novels, this is one to read. It's a fast read, it's well-written, and most importantly, it's good to have Dennis Lehane back in his element. (Of course, now I want another book, Dennis.)

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