Thursday, 4 August 2016

The Place That Didn't Exist by Mark Watson

review by Maryom

Landing an important charity account for Vortex, the ad agency he works for, has propelled Tim Callaghan into a whole new league. As part of the creative team, he's flown out to Dubai where the charity is based, to supervise the filming of an advert - and he's amazed by everything he encounters. The city is a holiday-maker's paradise, with bars, pools and shopping malls, and barely a need for a guest to lift a finger. It feels almost too good to be true - and it is. Then one of the film crew dies in mysterious circumstances ... could it have been an accidental overdose from a cocktail of drink and drugs, or something more sinister?

The Place That Didn't Exist is a mix of crime novel and social commentary, the story of a little man suddenly rocketed out of his league. While Tim wanders around marvelling at the fabulous place he's found himself in, to the rest of the film crew and the executives from the charity it's, if not 'normal', then at least something they've become accustomed to. But what others take for granted, Tim soon begins to question - the inequalities between the superficial glamour of the place and the hidden lives of the workers. Much like the oh-so-perfect-worlds dreamed up by advertising, it's all gloss and no substance.

It's an easy read of a book but one which points out the gulf between the lives of the super-rich visitors and those employed in creating the illusion. Various parallels are drawn between the artificiality of holiday destinations such as Dubai and the dream worlds fed to the public through advertising, but it's all done though humour and Tim's naivety, managing to deliver an entertaining but thought-provoking read.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Picador
Genre -adult,

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