The Drop by Dennis Lehane

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KK Conley Review

I saw the movie first, which is never a good idea. But the movie and book are very close in this case.

This is a favorite Lehane book of mine because it has one of the most subtle character arcs that I remember reading.

Bob Saginowski tells his priest he wants to love and be loved. His priest assures him he’ll find what he wants, but Bob doesn’t think so. He’s a taciturn bartender nicknamed the Sphinx by his customers because he rarely speaks. He never argues with his Cousin Marv, the bar’s namesake, but does what Marv tells him to do.

On his two am walk home Bob hears whimpers and finds a beaten and bleeding pit bull puppy in a trash can. When he pulls the dog from the can, the home owner comes outside. Just as cautious as Bob, she texts his picture to several people before she helps him clean the puppy up. Things are looking up for Bob with his new little puppy and friend. Even Cousin Marv comments on the change in Bob’s attitude. Then the original owner of the dog threatens to take the dog away.

I like this story because it shows that pit bulls learn behavior from their owners, the protagonist’s change is so subtle that I didn’t see it happening, and the story is well paced with good tension. The people (and dog) I cared about in the story were in danger.

Here’s an example of Lehane’s writing:

Bob and Cousin Marv each took a shovel out to the front of the bar, though Marv mostly leaned on his and wrapped his excuses in an old knee injury that nobody but Marv could recall.

Dennis Lehane is one of the best writers out there today, but I like his earlier novels more than the historical ones he has recently written.

Booklist Online Review

Yes, this short novel is technically a ­novelization—it’s adapted from Lehane’s screenplay for a movie of the same name, which itself was adapted from Lehane’s short story “Animal Rescue”—but don’t let the book’s mixed parentage get in the way.

This is a tight, gritty little tale of working-class crime in Boston, reminiscent not only of Lehane’s earlier crime fiction, but also of the work of the great George V. Higgins. Bob Saginowski is a lonely bartender working at a tired watering hole called Cousin Marv’s—working for Cousin Marv himself, in fact, who is Bob’s actual cousin. The sleepy joint, home to a motley crew of beer-soaked regulars, serves as a “drop bar” through which Chechen gangsters continually move thousands of ill-gotten dollars. Until one night when a couple of hapless stickup men, who seemingly wandered in from an Elmore Leonard novel, steal the loot, leaving Cousin Marv and, by extension, bartender Bob in a pickle with the Chechens. Meanwhile, Bob rescues an abandoned dog, meets a girl who knows dogs, tangles with another lowlife claiming to be the dog’s owner, and finds himself feeling oddly determined to overcome 20 years of lethargy. Like both Higgins and Leonard, Lehane breathes pulsing life into his story through the small details of his stoop-shouldered characters’ lives, investing their every mannerism with unspoken emotion and the weight of too many bad decisions, all of which makes Bob’s transformation from quiet desperation to quiet determination a powerful kind of existential drama. And there’s a dog, too!

HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Expect the movie version to draw readers to this streetwise story, which marks Lehane’s return from broad-canvas historical fiction to the close quarters of Boston’s mean streets.

— Bill Ott

© Booklist Online

Amazon Description

Dennis Lehane returns to the streets of Mystic River with this love story wrapped in a crime story wrapped in a journey of faith—the basis for the major motion picture The Drop.

Three days after Christmas, a lonely bartender looking for a reason to live rescues an abused puppy from a trash can and meets a damaged woman looking for something to believe in. As their relationship grows, they cross paths with the Chechen mafia; a man grown dangerous with age and thwarted hopes; two hapless stick-up artists; a very curious cop; and the original owner of the puppy, who wants his dog back. . . .

4.0 out of 5 stars, 500+ reviews


3.7 out of 5 stars, 5,500+ ratings

Dennis Lehane’s Description

(Same as the Amazon Description)

(I apologize if you are forced to watch a commercial, but it was the only video I could find of Lehane talking about The Drop. KK Conley)