Red Desert by Paddy Magrane (narrated by Joe Jameson) #AudiobookReview #BlogTour

When his girlfriend is violently attacked, Tom’s life falls apart and escape makes perfect sense. Taking a role as a therapist for staff on an oil camp in southern Iraq seems like the perfect solution. But upon his arrival, an explosion leaves four men dead. Tom starts to ask questions, and his curiosity soon gets him into trouble. An attack on the camp sees Tom shipped home, where he works with a journalist to continue his investigations. But when the journalist falls beneath a tube train, Tom is left wondering whether his search for the truth could end in his death, too…

I am thrilled to be hosting the blog tour for Red Desert today. Huge thanks to Paddy Magrane, Audible and Amber Choudhary from Midas PR for inviting me and for my advance copy of the audiobook.

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.

Released exclusively in audio on 7th May 2020, Red Desert is a white-knuckle suspense thriller set between London, Berlin and Iraq. Perfect listening for fans of Homeland, The Hurt Locker and American Sniper, Red Desert is available to purchase here.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Paddy Magrane is a Psychotherapist, journalist and the Kindle #1 ranked thriller writer of The Sam Keddie thrillers. Born in the Middle East, Paddy then grew up on army bases in Germany, Northern Ireland and England. Paddy was an artist for ten years in the UK before working as a journalist for The Guardian, The Observer and The Telegraph. Paddy has travelled extensively, having visited Syria before the civil war and recently worked in Israel and the West Bank. In 2006, Paddy retrained as a psychotherapist and practices at home in rural Devon where he lives with his wife and two daughters.

About the Narrator

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 youngest, most in-demand voice-over artists. Joe is also an experienced stage and screen actor. He spent 3 years performing at Shakespeare’s Globe, and was most recently seen in ITV’s 'Grantchester'.
With an excellent ear for accents, and an extensive range, Joe has narrated over 150 audio-books for Audible, Strathmore and Penguin, amongst others, as well as accruing a wealth of experience in ELT & ADR.