Survive to Fight by Billy Billingham

Today I am delighted to join the blog tour for Survive to Fight, the latest Matt Mason thriller from Billy Billingham. This is book two in the series and, true to form, I’ve not read book one, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this latest offering. My thanks to Sophie Ransom for the tour invite and publisher Hodder & Stoughton for the early copy for review. Here’s what the book is all about:

Source: Advance Reader Copy
Publication Date: 09 June 2022
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

About the Book

Matt Mason is attempting to put the army behind him, building a life for himself training anti-poaching forces on a game reserve.

He’s looking forward to meeting up with his eldest child, Jo, who has graduated naval college and taken a summer job working on a billionaire’s yacht in the Red Sea. But then he receives a call informing him that Jo’s boat is missing, likely abducted by Somali pirates.

Mason must call in favours from old contacts as he follows Jo’s trail. She isn’t the abduction target, she won’t be worth the pirates keeping for long. But she is still Matt Mason’s daughter, and she knows she needs to survive to fight.


My Thoughts

You know what? This book really wasn’t what I was expecting at all. And yet, it also was. You know how sometimes when you get an action hero they can be over the top, all guns blazing, shoot first, ask questions later kinds of characters? It can make for some impressive and memorable fight scenes, but you know, deep down, the violence and impact of the shootouts is there for effect only. It doesn’t add to the progression of the story, just makes everything tense and exciting. With Survive to Fight, I found myself reading a story which has no shortage of tense, action filled pages, but which was also far more considered and measured than many of its counterparts. It showed a reflection of the training the author has had, whereby action is taken only as necessary, not to make for an overwhelmingly exciting cliffhanger scene ending.

That’s not to say that the book is lacking in action. Far from it. With poaching, piracy and hostage taking, alongside the very believable and worrying international problem of human trafficking, there are plenty of pulse thumping moments to entertain the serious action fan. And as an action hero, Matt Mason is as good as they come. Fierce, loyal and completely dedicated, he’s exactly the kind of person you’d want on your side. When we first meet him in this book he is working on a game reserve in Mozambique, working hard to try to stop poachers from slaughtering the elephant herd. These scenes are fraught, fast and believable, and truly sad. We get a real measure of the man as he hunts down the poachers, but also in his actions afterward. His commitment to his team in the midst of a real threat to life, tells you all you need to know if, like me, you are meeting him for the first time. And I liked Mason. Liked his attitude and the way he fought hard for those around him, keeping cool and thinking tactically, and never afraid to follow where the trail may lead. And that is quite some way from home. Quite fortuitous as it turns out.

There is a secondary thread to this book, one which does tie in to the poaching story as those who are shipping the stolen ivory around the world are also dealing in a very different kind of shipment. Anything to get their own goods safely across some very dangerous seas. This comes to impact Mason in a way that no-one could have seen coming and one that puts one of his own family in danger. Parts of this story are hard to read but not in an overly graphic way. It is more that as we delve further into the world of people trafficking, you know that the author has not captured even a fraction of the depravity of the people smugglers or the sheer hell that those who are taken have to endure. It made me angry, made me want to see justice being done and to see Mason succeed in holding all of the bad guys to account.

The book is infused with a real sense of authenticity, with scenes that compelled me to read onward and kept me completely invested in the characters and story. Mason isn’t the only person whose perspective we get during the book, there is also that of his daughter who is working on a yacht sailing off the east coast of Africa. Now if you know anything of sea travel on that eastern coast you know that this is just asking for trouble. It leads to moments of apprehension and expectation, knowing something bad will happen and, more or less, what that bad thing will be. There are still surprises in store though and not everything in the book played out in quite the way I expected.

If you like character led action thrillers, with a great sense of authenticity that really captures your attention, it’s definitely worth reading this book. I’m off to find out what I missed in book one now. I can see me being with Matt Mason for the long hall.

About the Author

Billy Billingham spent 17 years in the SAS. He was responsible for planning and executing strategic operations and training at the highest level in locations including Iraq, Afghanistan, South America and Africa, and has led countless hostage rescues. He later became a bodyguard to A list celebrities such as Brad Pitt, Sir Michael Caine, and Tom Cruise. Since 2015, Billy has been one of the lead presenters on the popular Channel Four series SAS: Who Dares Wins.

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