Guest Book Review: The Drop by Dennis Lehane-Guest Review by Cobalt Stargazer

The DropI am introducing Guest Reviews and the lovely Cobalt Stargazer is my first guest reviewer. You can learn more about Cobalt Stargazer below.

You may not know the name of Dennis Lehane, but most undoubtedly you are familiar with Lehane’s books. Two of them, Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone were made into very successful movies, both commercially and critically. Lehane’s novel The Drop started out as a short story called Animal Rescue, and then it was stretched out into the screenplay for the movie version, which starred Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, and James Gandolfini in his last film role.

The Drop opens as Bob Saginowski is walking home from work on a cold Boston night. Bob is a bartender, and he works for his cousin Marv, who used to own the bar until he was pushed out by the Russian mob. Now Marv is just a figurehead, and Bob is his loyal, if plodding, employee. On his way home, he hears a noise, and when he investigates he finds a pitbull puppy, hurt and shivering, in a trash can. He lifts the dog out, which leads Nadia, the occupant of the house the trash barrel belongs to, to step outside to discover why a strange man is loitering in front of her dwelling. After some uncomfortable conversation, Nadia invites Bob in to check the dog out. After taking his picture with her cell phone and sending it out to six other people, including the local parish priest.

Bob is extremely reluctant to take the dog in, even though his loneliness is such that he feels it in his bones every time he thinks about it. He wants to make friends, and he even tries to, but he’s so shy and withdrawn that people generally give up after a few attempts to make conversation. Nadia practically has to browbeat him into taking the puppy with him by saying that if he turns the dog over to Animal Rescue they’ll keep him for only so long, then likely put him to sleep. He ends up taking the pup home, where he gives him the name Rocco.

Cousin Marv’s gets robbed (the bar serves as a drop for mob money) and a cop named Torres enters the picture. Bob mentions that one of the robbers wore a broken watch with the face turned inward. Eventually, they find a plastic bag with blood-stained money inside…and a broken watch still on it. Together, Marv and Bob literally launder the money and Bob throws the forearm into the channel after wrapping it in plastic, like a piece of meat from the butcher’s.

The advent of Rocco – and Nadia – in Bob’s life eases his loneliness somewhat, but it also brings a guy named Eric Deeds sniffing around. Eric is Nadia’s ex, and Rocco’s owner, but he’s also a little psychotic and a stalker to boot. He ends up telling Bob that he wants ten grand for the dog or he’s going to do something terrible, some unnamed something that he never describes. Supposedly Eric killed someone named Richie Whelan, a former high school football star everyone called Glory Days, and he’s been coasting on the notoriety of that for years. No one can prove or disprove the claim, but that’s the rumor.

It turns out that Marv is the one who set up the robbery, trying to get back at the Russians for forcing him out. Bob seems to get an inkling of this, and he semi-confronts Marv with: “Are you doing something desperate, again? Something that maybe this time we won’t be able to clean up?” Marv tells him to beat it after a speech about how he used to be somebody in the neighborhood, and the stool he sits on in the bar used to be just his seat, and that it meant something. Before he leaves, Bob says, “But it didn’t.”

Near the end, Eric and Nadia come to the bar on Super Bowl night, and its Eric’s intention to steal the drop money. He broke into her house and more or less kidnapped her, forcing her to accompany him. They wait until everyone’s cleared out, even old Millie, who shows up every night and stays until closing even though she can’t pay her tab (Bob does it for her). Eric knows that the safe has an automatic lock, and he’s just waiting for it to open so he can get at the cash.

Without spoiling the ending, it suffices to say that Eric ends up dead at Bob’s hand, and Nadia and Rocco are both free from him. Marv’s part in the burglary gets found out by the “hard guys”, and he meets his own end with a bullet to the bridge of his nose. Bob’s loneliness, that marine layer of gloom, shows signs of breaking up in the rays of light from Nadia’s budding trust, and possibly even affection.

Is Bob a good person? Not particularly. On the morality scale of one to ten, I’d give him a seven or maybe an eight. He spends most of the book seeming a bit slow in the head, so when it turns out that he’s actually dangerous it’s a surprise. But Cousin Marv and Eric Deeds combined aren’t as good of a person as he is by himself. Marv is too venal to be genuinely evil, and Eric, while legitimately violent, is also so overconfident that he badly underestimates his supposed quarry, taking him for a half-wit that he can run roughshod over.

Ultimately, The Drop is a story of what it means to get along in a hard world, and that it really is possible to find happiness and contentment as long as you’re willing to take the risk. Sometimes you just have to be more dangerous than anyone thought you could be.

Meet Cobalt Stargazer! Cobalt Stargazer is a lifelong resident of North Carolina, where she attended NSCU and graduated with a degree in literature, which looks very attractive hanging on her wall. After a long stretch of retirement, she started writing fanfiction again, having found ample inspiration in the show Criminal Minds. The powers of fandom in general are strong with Cobalt Stargazer, from the Buffyverse to the worlds created by several movies and even procedurals, so if there are questions, please direct them to the awesome chief blogger here, who can pass them on. Cobalt Stargazer really looked forward to this gig, which gives her the opportunity to do what she like best – read, and then be opinionated about what she’s read.