Deadfall by Stephen Wallenfels Book Review

This should have been a bestseller. Deadfall is pure adrenaline rush as it tells a story that bounces between the past and present, in equally engaging stories of deceit, fear and heartpound.

Ty and Cory Bic are very different but inseparable brothers. Cory is a closeted kid who loves cooking and video games, while Ty is more into the carefree, wild and rude. And Ty certainly takes after their father Benny in a few ways, but don’t let Ty hear I said that. Benny’s clear substance abuse led to their mother eventually spray painting a farewell message on their fridge and leaving their lives forever. Shortly after, Benny took his two sons to a hideaway in the wilderness called Stumptown, a secret bunker with a stove, lanterns, cans of food, and magazines on Marilyn Monroe from the 50’s…so you could say that that canned food must be botulism sludge by now. No one had been to this unknown place in 60 years, and Benny introduces it as their sort of hideout.

Well, a little over a year later, Ty and Cory find themselves in a pickle that brings them back. They are in a stolen car running from someone, and as they’re going, they see a car rolled over in the trees. The goodness in Cory’s heart forces them to stop and check things out. They find a girl in the trunk, tied up with duct tape around her mouth and gasoline all over her clothes. When they manage to free her, she isn’t speaking, and it becomes apparent whoever tied her up meant to kill her…and is not about to let the three of them go. With that, we hear two different stories in tandem; their run from this lunatic, and how they found themselves on the run.

A brief way of describing Deadfall is it’s the kind of story I dreamt of writing as a little kid but with the grunge and hatred of reality mashed into it. I’ve always been a fan of books about characters in low-class desperate circumstances, because these people have always existed and their troubles are often more than I can possibly imagine. I’ve always been a fan of stories where people scheme, orchestrate, and run from the authorities. Well, running from the authorities turns out to not really be a subject here, but we know Cory and Ty are running from someone and stole a Volvo in doing so. Close enough in my opinion. I’ve always been a fan of the idea of hiding out where no one can find you, not your worst enemies, not the authorities, not a soul. When I was a kid, the idea of a Stumptown of my own appealed to me because in the back of my head I knew that a place off the grid that only I knew the location of is something I might require one day, especially if I was hiding secret documents or a war fugitive. There’s the fact that having food in a secret wildlife cavern would be very dangerous because of the raccoons, bears, coyotes, without some proper security. But all you’d need is some funds and imagination and you’d be set. Stephen Wallenfels has crafted a book of half wish fulfilling fantasy, half true grit, and I couldn’t put it down.

I don’t want to spoil what happens to Cory, Ty and Benny. Let’s just say there are some staggering twists that bring the characters to new places over the months before meeting the girl, and not all of it is bad, believe it or not. One part is a journey of life, and then there’s trying to save a life.

The ending might be a bit too tidy for my taste, but I can live with that. I devoured this book and really appreciated how it didn’t pull the punches of what it’s like growing up in a household with a dangerous parent, and the pace of both stories had me always excited for what came next.

If you like this, I’d try Mosquitoland by David Arnold

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