THE DROP – Book Review
In case you didn’t know, Dennis Lehane’s new novel The Drop, started life as a short story “Animal Rescue”, which Lehane then expanded into a screenplay for the soon to be released film, also called The Drop. Lehane then pulled an Elmore Leonard and readapted his screenplay into a novel, thus resulting in this third incarnation of The Drop. Based on this somewhat circuitous path to existence you’d be forgiven for thinking that The Drop might not be Lehane of the first water. But while The Drop is a bit lopsided it contains enough of what makes Lehane the best crime novelist working today to make it a worthwhile read. A trademark story of grace and blood told from the heart.
The Drop follows Bob, a broken, guilt ridden, desperately lonely bartender and former gangster whose life begins to turn around when he rescues a half dead puppy out of a trashcan. Things are further complicated when he strikes up a tentative friendship with a woman as damaged as he is, his cousin picks an ill timed fight with some Chechen mobsters and a neighborhood psychopath starts harassing him. The seams of The Drop’s disparate parentage show in its plot. There are some anecdotes that have clearly been added to drag the word count kicking and screaming over 60,000. As a result The Drop has more in common with the stop start incident of Lehane’s contemporary George Pelecanos, than the ruthless momentum of the usual Lehane novel. What is instantly recognizable is Lehane’s voice, more stripped down than usual but clearly demonstrating Lehane’s trademark clarity, compassion, gallows humor and unexpected poeticism.
Bob is a man out of time and Lehane mourns with him the loss of old school ideals of privacy, community and self reliance, seemingly contradictory ideals that Lehane nevertheless sees as interdependent- and going extinct at roughly the same rate. I’m beginning to think that it’s no coincidence that Lehane has dedicated himself to writing about the past this decade, I wonder if he finds anything in the modern age worth writing about. (That said some of Lehane’s “Kids these days-” grousing can’t help but be amusing. Particularly when Bob trash talks another character as “Looking like he just left his living room,” this from an author who once had his hero proudly wear a Ren & Stimpy T-shirt to a crucial police briefing.)
The Drop is probably destined to be regarded as minor Lehane, but even a minor work by one of the best storytellers writing today is more than worth paying attention to. Lehane’s Boston is at this point like Dicken’s London, Chandler’s LA, or King’s New England; a place he owns so thoroughly and feels so deeply, that just the opportunity to tour it with him is worth your fifteen bucks. For dedicated fans The Drop is minor the way a b side on a favorite band’s album is minor, an illuminating variation as interesting for ways it departs from his style as how it conforms to it. Hell for Lehane The Drop is almost heartwarming, albeit that for Lehane a heartwarming work will include graphic torture and prison rape.