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The Drop
Dennis Lehane

William Morrow
September 2, 2014/ ISBN 978-0062365446

Reviewed by Leslie C Halpern


Based on a short story adapted into a screenplay, The Drop focuses on the illegal activities of Cousin Marv’s, a seedy Boston bar owned by ruthless Chechen gangsters. The former owner, Marv, still runs the place with Bob, a quiet loner who prays in church, tends bar, and doesn’t do much else. Although they work together and are actually cousins, their relationship has turned antagonistic over the years, with Marv desperately longing for the old days when he had more money and power, and Bob tiring of cleaning up messes related to Marv’s dirty dealings.

After stagnant years of loneliness, regret, and boredom, Bob finds an abused pit bull puppy stuffed in a trash can one evening. Despite no experience with dogs, he adopts the pup with the aid of Nadia, a strange young woman who claims it’s her trash can, but not her dog. Although the two humans form a tentative friendship, Bob falls in love instantly with Rocco (the name he gives the dog based on Saint Rocco, patron saint of dogs (among other things). The situation turns suddenly frightening when the dog’s abusive owner shows up with innuendos, threats, and demands.

Meanwhile things at the bar have also grown more complicated. A robbery there interests an over-zealous cop, and a planned “drop” of dirty money at Cousin Marv’s on Super Bowl Sunday creates more problems. The increasing suspense from the robbery, the Chechens, the dog owner, and even his own cousin, cause Bob to come out of his protective shell where he’s been hiding for many years.

Filled with profanity and regional dialect that’s sometimes grating, this novel provides a peek into the damaged people, rough lives, and violent outcomes associated with foreign crime syndicates operating a drop bar in the big city. At the center of the story, Bob is presented as both likeable and pitiable, but always very real in this intriguing crime thriller. While Marv can be pathetic and Nadia off-puttingly weird, Bob (and Rocco) are certainly worth caring about in this engaging – though often ugly – tale of one man’s unusual journey toward redemption.

Reviewer Leslie C. Halpern is the author of Passionate About Their Work: 151 Celebrities, Artists, and Experts on Creativity, Rub, Scrub, Clean the Tub: Funny Children's Poems About Self-Image, and Shakes, Cakes, Frosted Flakes: Funny Children's Poems About Table Manners.
Reviewed 2014