William Morrow Paperbacks, 224 pages, $14.99
Every word and movement counts in a short story. By necessity, given the needs of certain genres, like crime writing, characters and descriptions are more concise because there’s a lot of plot to get through. “The Drop” seems stretched. (I know many books begin as short stories and many authors work from a small idea that expands to become a long book. I wouldn’t necessarily have the same reaction to them, so I’m not complaining about the process.) “Animal Rescue” was the precursor to “The Drop,” and it contains the best parts of “The Drop.”
Bob is a bartender in his cousin Marv’s bar. He is lonely and there’s a heaviness that hangs over his life. He plods from day to day. He is quiet and it’s not a stretch to imagine that he is the flickering dim bulb in the sign. Then he finds a dog in the trash.
“Cassius” changes everything. Bob’s dog needs and loves him. With the help of Nadia, the woman who saw Bob pull Cassius out of the trash, he learns how to take care of a dog. Also, as Bob’s neighborhood Catholic church is scheduled for closure, his life veers even further away from the tedium and routine he had accepted.
Lehane has added more about what gives the book its title: Marv’s little bar is a drop for the Chechen mafia. He has enlarged the part of Eric, Nadia’s psycho ex-boyfriend. He’s added an NYC detective. There’s a little more about Bob’s life, and maybe that’s the problem. It’s both too much and not enough. A lot depends on Bob’s character. The resolutions of the short story and the novel are mostly the same, but the hit from the short story has more punch because we’ve only had a short time to process what’s happening to Bob.
Those bang-up twists at the end are stellar. That part is pure Lehane. The story of “Cassius” is intact from the short story and it, too, is wonderfully rendered. Even though I felt the book’s rhythm was a little bumpy, I would and could never NOT recommend a Lehane book.