The Drop is peopled with the lowlife who used to be called “the criminal element” in Boston, Dennis Lehane’s favorite stomping ground. Bob, a bartender; his boss “Cousin Marv”; Eric, a brutal ex-con; Nadia, a woman with a suspicious scar on her neck; a long-dead scumbag named Richie; a Chechen mob boss called Chovka; and a pit bull puppy all figure prominently in this beautifully crafted little crime novel from a master of the genre. The pall of Catholic guilt lies over this collection of sad sacks and repeatedly figures in the action.

“The drop” of the title is the bar where Bob works under Cousin Marv’s supervision — shorthand for a “drop bar,” one of numerous taverns throughout Boston where the allied crime families (Chechen, Irish, Italian, Black) drop the proceeds of their gambling rackets in an unpredictable sequence. Predictably, Cousin Marv’s bar will be the location of the drop one night soon. What isn’t predictable is what transpires before, during, and after all those millions are eased into a container behind the bar. The suspense is palpable.

The Drop by Dennis Lehane @@@@@ (5 out of 5)

If there’s any message in this novel, it might be this: “Cruelty is older than the Bible. Savagery beat its chest in the first human summer and has kept beating it every day since. The worst in men is commonplace. The best is a far rarer thing.” If this suggests to you that The Drop is not a fun read, you would be right.

About the author

Dennis Lehane, formerly of Boston, is one of America’s best-known writers, largely on the strength of the high-profile films made of his novels Mystic River (directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Sean Penn), Shutter Island (directed by Martin Scorsese), and Gone, Baby, Gone (directed by Ben Affleck). The Drop has been adapted to film, too, featuring the final feature film appearance of James Gandolfini (The Sopranos). Lehane has also won awards for his outstanding scripts for the seminal TV series, The Wire.

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