Bloodhound Books | 2020 (8 June) | 442p | Review copy | Buy the book
This is the holiday of a lifetime for Sam Berry and Jody Lamb and their young children Grace and Dylan. They have scraped and saved for years to afford this luxury holiday on a fabulous Adriatic island. The north of the island is also the playground of billionaire Borko, related to local powerful politicians, whose private jet Sam had noticed when their own charter flight was coming in to land. Sam and Jody win a competition, much to the disgust and envy of their fellow (and much richer) holiday makers. The four of them are taken to Borko’s villa to join in a party full of VIPs. It all seems too good to be true. And of course it is. The holiday is about to become a nightmare and this gorgeous island is no longer paradise – it is hell on earth.
I loved the premise of Survive and I’m delighted to say that it fully delivers on its promise, so much so that I read the novel in two sittings. This is unheard of for me in these strange times so I can only conclude that the novel gave me just what I needed – a thoroughly exciting adventure, an intriguing mix of heroes and villains, a fabulous holiday location and a plot that is so tense and exhilarating that I couldn’t wait to see how it would turn out.
We are lulled into a false sense of security by the novel’s gentle and evocative opening chapters. We are immersed in this resort and fully sympathise with Sam for buying a holiday that he can barely afford. We learn more about Sam and Jody, the extremely young parents, their difficult relationship, largely because they have been together since they were children. Equal time is give to their kids, Grace and Dylan. I loved reading about the resort, the other guests, the hotel rep and so on, and knowing that everything was about to combust raised the tension. I did find the end of this section, when the family arrive at the villa for the bash, a little slow – by this point I was so ready for the adventure to start – but then it all takes off and from that moment on I couldn’t stop reading it.
There’s something of The Hunger Games about the ordeal which the family must face and also in its set up. It works so well, especially because of its setting on an island which is an ideal holiday location. The dream becomes a nightmare and this is so effective, putting me off white sandy beached islands for some time. The action and drama is incredibly tense and thrilling but along with the thrills comes insight into the family’s characters. This nightmare becomes a catalyst for change, not least because neither Sam or Jody believes that they’ll survive. It’s time to take stock and re-evaluate their lives and relationships even if it is too late.
Our feelings towards Sam are conflicted but we do nothing but root for him once the nightmare begins. It’s so painful reading about the fear that takes hold of the children’s minds. It is Jody, though, who shines out of the pages as she comes into her own. I’ll say nothing more about what happens to the family as you need to feel the tension and terror of it for yourself.
Survive is the perfect holiday read whether you’re on a luxurious exotic island yourself or, as is more likely the case these days, at home. It’s probably safer at home, Tom Bale puts us in no doubt of that. Tom Bale writes so well, driving the action along, keeping us and the poor hapless family squirming at what befalls them while we urge them on. If you want a fast, exciting holiday thriller to immerse yourself in then look no further than Survive.