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Audible's Crime & Thriller Pick of the Month: May 2020

Love nothing more than being engrossed in a creepy thriller or playing detective with a gripping mystery? You're not alone! Always ready for a challenge, the Audible editors have taken on the tough task of seeking out spine-chilling tales that will keep you up all night. Every month we’ll bring you the very best in murder and mystery in Audible's Crime & Thriller Pick of the Month.
Paddy Magrane

About the author

Paddy Magrane was born in the Middle East, educated in England and has lived in Florence, New York and London. After graduating with a first from art school, he moved to New York, working as an assistant to an abstract expressionist. Returning to the UK, he was an artist for ten years, before becoming a copywriter and journalist, penning pieces for the Guardian, Observer and Telegraph.

Paddy has travelled widely, but loves returning to his birthplace, the Middle East. He visited Syria before the civil war and, more recently, worked in Israel and the West Bank.

Joe Jameson

About the performer

Joe Jameson is a London based actor and voice-over artist. He graduated from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in 2010 and has since become one of London’s most in-demand voice-over artists.

With an excellent ear for accents, and an extensive range, Joe has narrated more than 200 audio-books for Audible, Strathmore and Penguin, among others.

Summary

When a violent attack on his girlfriend tears Tom’s life apart, escape makes perfect sense. He takes a job with an oil company, providing therapy to staff cooped up in a camp in Southern Iraq. Nice pay packet, if you don’t mind being stuck in the desert surrounded by unexploded mines and cluster bombs.

On his arrival, an explosion outside the camp leaves four men dead. Something about it doesn’t make sense, and Tom starts to ask questions. His curiosity begins to get him into trouble - especially with the former soldiers who work there as security contractors. When the camp is attacked and Tom is shipped home, he continues his investigations. Working with a journalist pursuing a story about a cover-up, Tom looks into a notorious army barracks. But then the journalist falls beneath a tube train. Falls, or is pushed? With an unseen enemy closing in, will Tom’s search for the truth end in his death, too?

Set between London, Berlin and Iraq, this white-knuckle suspense thriller is perfect for fans of The Hurt Locker, American Sniper and Homeland.

©2020 Paddy Magrane (P)2020 Audible Inc.
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Critic reviews

"This will be one of my audiobooks of the year. An absolutely riveting listen, beautifully written and with a terrific main character. I hope we get more Tom Challis books. Bravo." (Caroline Green)

"Like the best thrillers, Red Desert is packed with action, intrigue and evocative locations; I could taste the desert's dust and heat. What's more, its hero has empathy, intelligence and compassion. The perfect escape from lockdown.” (Author, Sarah Hillary)   

“This was my first ready of anything written by Paddy Magrane. Red Desert is a roller coaster, high-octane ride that drags you in from the first few words and won't let you go until you have finished. The protagonist, Tom is an enthralling character, thrust into an unfamiliar environment and the insight in psychoanalysis is fascinating. The action never lets up. Ever. It is relentless and a full on assault on the senses. What a read.” (Neil Lancaster, Author of Tom Novak Thrillers)

What listeners say about Red Desert

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A tense and exciting conspiracy thriller

From the start of Red Desert it's evident that Tom Challis's new role as a psychotherapist for staff working on an oil camp in Iraq has taken him far out of his comfort zone. Kept awake most of the night by the hum of the air conditioning and his fridge, his first morning starts with a bang when he is abruptly awoken by an explosion. It's a terrifying reminder that life in southern Iraq is more different and risky than he could ever have envisaged - and the high octane opening chapters barely allow him to draw breath as his concerns mount over the rising death toll at the camp and the apparent indifference of the authorities to investigate. He is immediately a hugely likeable character; sensitive and compassionate, his interactions with a young Iraqi boy are notably touching. He struggles to persuade the workers on camp to open up to him, and his position as outsider is further underlined by something as seemingly straightforward as choosing what to eat in the canteen. It's here that he meets the guileful Alice, a Chinese national who also works on the camp and with whom he strikes up a cautious friendship. As the book progresses, it becomes obvious that he has his own troubles but rather than confronting them, he's trying to forget. It makes for an intriguing contrast between his own mental health issues and those of the men he encounters - who like him are reluctant to expose themselves to therapy. He's been employed at the camp following a recent suicide and the harsh realities of day to day life there mean it's not surprising that many of the workers are stressed and anxious. However, he is particularly concerned about a former soldier who he is convinced is suffering from PTSD. A number of deeply worrying developments ensures the tension level keeps rising as Tom struggles to find anybody prepared to take notice of his growing concern that there is a killer in camp seriously and he eventually comes to the unsettling realisation that all that matters to those in charge is that nothing is allowed to interrupt the production of oil. The breathless conclusion of this part of the story would be a fitting end to many action thrillers but it's just the beginning for Tom. Back in London, he could be forgiven for putting his experiences in Iraq behind him but it's from this point that we really begin to see his character emerge. On the camp he was forced to react to the hostile environment he found himself in with little time to think - but now he makes an active choice to investigate further. It's to Paddy Magrane's credit that Tom never suddenly becomes an all-out action hero and instead is a man who is driven by his own set of morals as he keeps pushing for answers even though he is under no illusions about the potentially deadly consequences. His position as an outsider means he finds it hard to know who he can trust and there are several shocking revelations and an almost constant sense of dread as he slowly begins to suspect the deaths in Iraq may be connected to two Deepcut-like supposed suicides at an army base in Hampshire. As he joins forces with a local hack who has been obsessively investigating several deaths linked to the barracks, the suspense becomes almost unbearable as it seems as if all eyes are upon him - and they don't like what he is doing. The fast-paced, intricate plot keeps him constantly on the move as he heads for Germany on the trail of the truth. Tom (and the reader!) is barely allowed time to draw breath but he never loses his resolve to find out the truth and to secure justice. Despite not having any real form of training for the perilous situation he finds himself in, his skills as a psychotherapist add a fascinating dimension to the story and a poignant juxtaposition to his own personal tragedy. The long-term mental impact of trauma is particularly relevant here and while there can be no disputing the bleak revelations which triggered such desperate measures to secure silence at any cost, the result of keeping terrible secrets locked away is shown to be ultimately as toxic. Casting a sharp look at establishment cover-ups and a global society where oil production dominates economies; Red Desert is an exceptional conspiracy thriller where nail-biting action scenes are complemented by a thoughtfully insightful and empathetic exploration of a number of important subjects. I must also applaud Joe Jameson's brilliant narration which brings the book to life, with each character distinctly voiced, ensuring I never had to question who was talking. Absolutely riveting throughout, Paddy Magrane's complex, contemporary novel features tense and exciting drama, authentic, compelling characters and an evocative sense of place - especially in the deserts of Iraq where I could almost feel the stifling heat burning down on me. Very highly recommended.

2 people found this helpful

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Great book again from Paddy

I finished listening to this yesterday, only a few days from stating it, I loved it. Always a good sign of book when you are thinking about the characters and story between listens. This book certainly made me do that. Looking forward to the next one Paddy!

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My first audible

I’ve found that I have rather a lot of time on my hands at the moment so I was looking to fill my spare time with some good reading. I decided I’d give Audible a go so I could multi-task gardening, cycling and reading. I’ve read Paddy Magrane’s other two books so I was keen to read the new one. I loved it! Completed it in two days, I lost myself completely in it Joe Jameson’s narration was brilliant, I could listen to his voice all day. It’s left a hole so I’m going to have to try another audible.

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Bit different

Worth a listen a bit different in locations and characters involvement no mad supper soldier, realistic fictional story, few good twists and misdirection over all entertaining

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Just brilliant

The combination of an exciting, fast paced and brilliantly written and narrated story makes this the very best of listens. Can’t wait to listen to another by the same team. Thank you.

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Excellent thriller

This is a great book that only had one moment that stretched credibility. Otherwise a nicely paced thriller that kept totally engaged. The narrator was brilliant and deserves praise for the array of voices used throughout the book. Highly recommended.

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Gripping, tense and scarily plausible

The power and dangers of 'group think', fear, pride, trauma and extreme, often misplaced loyalty are in play throughout this tense thriller. Paddy's troubled but ultimately brave hero, Tom, battles his own demons to fight for justice for men caught up in a web spun from the horrors of the war in Iraq, the subsequent cover-up and ongoing corporate exploitation of the country's natural and human resources. The more cruel aspects of globalisation and armed conflict are explored, raising questions of personal morality and motivations. Paddy's intelligent narrative reminded me of the 'group think' which has so badly damaged our current political discourse and leaves me wondering whether the only people who dare risk challenging the status quo are those who feel they have nothing to lose ...? This was my first experience of an audio book (apart from Horrible Histories for occasional long car journeys with kids) and I was totally gripped, distracted at times but always enjoying this new way to be entertained, enlightened and challenged. Thanks, Paddy. I hope a TV drama follows!

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Average

Average - rather unsophisticated writing. Narration could also do with more mature gravitas. Story also has a good number of rather incredible scrapes.

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A classic, edge-of-your-seat-thriller.

Red Desert is a fast-paced thriller, which sees protagonist Tom Challis stumble upon a small piece of a dangerous puzzle. To put the whole together, he must chase across Iraq, England and Germany, never knowing whom to trust, or when danger will strike next. Fleeing tragedy at home, Tom takes a job as a psychotherapist on an Iraqi oil field. On his first day four men are killed by a roadside bomb, and he learns of other deaths, none of which have satisfactory explanations. Convinced there’s a link between them, and fobbed off by those in authority, Tom takes matters into his own hands. But people are watching Tom. People who will stop at nothing to keep their secrets buried. Reminiscent of The Thirty-Nine Steps, Red Desert is a classic, edge-of-your-seat-thriller. Audible books like this make every car journey an adventure.

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Good writing

Very well written, sometimes too much detail. Very good story though. Enjoyed the narrator voice

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 01-06-20

Enormously Enjoyable

I'm new to Paddy Magrane's work as a writer and found myself taking a chance which I'm delighted to say I didn't regret for a minute. I very much enjoyed having a hero with a psychotherapeutic background - made for a very enjoyable few days walking to and from work and I was very sad when it was over - I'm definitely looking forward to my next Audio Book by Paddy Magrane