BOOK REVIEW⎜The Man In The Black Suit by Sylvain Reynard

MY RATING

I got excited about the premise and enjoyed the set up but too many things happening all at once and my inability to get accustomed to the author’s writing in the long run as well as crumbling characters made me struggle to enjoy the story past the first half.

Book Infos

Brazilian Acacia Santos excels at her job as concierge at the prestigious Hotel Victoire in Paris. When her senior colleague is attacked and sent to the hospital, she is tasked with serving one of the hotel’s most mysterious and attractive guests.

Nicholas Cassirer checks into the hotel under an assumed name every three months. Usually, he stays in the penthouse suite with a beautiful female companion but on this occasion, he arrives alone and is displeased in having to deal with someone new. A match of wits ensues as he tests Acacia’s expertise with a series of almost impossible demands. Her intelligence and creativity rise to the challenge, earning his respect.

They strike a tenuous accord until Acacia discovers a famous stolen painting in his suite. Compelled to report her discovery, she contacts a former boyfriend who works for the elite BRB, a unit of French law enforcement that deals with stolen art.

Nicholas is questioned by police and released when it is revealed the painting is a reproduction. Irked with her behavior, Acacia’s supervisor demotes her, threatening dismissal and the cancellation of her work permit.

But Acacia has already attracted Nicholas’s attention. Remorseful that she may lose her job on his account, he offers her a choice—she can wait until her supervisor dismisses her, or she can leave the city of lights behind and become his personal assistant.

Acacia initially refuses his offer, but Nicholas is persistent. He reveals himself as a man who quietly acquires stolen art in order to restore it to its rightful owners. Faced with mounting familial debts and the possibility of dismissal and deportation, she agrees to work for him.

Nicholas opens up a whole new world of beauty and intrigue to Acacia as they travel the globe. Soon the line between employer and assistant is blurred, and the two lonely people embark on a passionate relationship.

Secrets and danger abound as Nicholas and Acacia try to solve the mystery of a piece of stolen art. But Acacia may prove to be the most dangerous mystery of all.

Author : Sylvain Reynard
Title : The Man In The Black Suit
Series : –

Number of pages : 437
Publisher : Argyle Press
Release Date :  December 19th, 2017
Genre : Contemporary. Suspense

My Review

I’m sad to say, in the long run, I wasn’t impressed with The Man In The Black Suit.

The blurb says it all. And by that, I mean really—everything interesting about this book lies in the blurb.
The synopsis with its promise of an intrigue set in Paris and revolving around arts piqued my curiosity. I’m equally curious and wary of any book set in my city, and although described accurately, it felt too much like the Paris only tourists want to read about. Personally, I’m over it but I can understand the appeal for readers interested to visit or intrigued by Paris.

I really thought I had a winner within my hands when I started The Man In The Black Suit. I felt charmed and intrigued by the hero and the mystery surrounding him. His presence so dominating and imposing, I was literally subdued by his persona. So much so, I devoured more than a third of this book solely driven by my desire, my need to figure out who was The Man in The Black Suit and how deep his connections ran, as he seems to be… almighty.

I appreciated how fierce and independent the heroine was. Acacia Santos was one hell of a woman and I especially enjoyed seeing her stands her grounds with intelligence against power and wealth in whatever form it appeared. Strong and driven she was honorable and honest through and through.

Veiled suspicions, tension and banter were delivered with gusto and I reveled in it.

I didn’t mind then how contrived things led Acacia to associate with the hero, it seemed everything she needed to hear to be reassured and encouraged in their journey as associates could be arranged by The Man In The Black Suit. Whatever the cost, Nicholas Cassirer could make it happen! I know, work of fiction, I should just suspend all disbelief and go with the flow, but it was really hard for me to keep my skepticism at bay. The man had more power than all European leaders united!
Forget Jason Bourne, James Bond and the likes. Nicholas’s life and tech resources was the stuff of legend. I grew tired—and paranoid— of his team sweeping every place for mics and recording devices.
I don’t believe Tom Clancy himself could have dreamed up a more resourceful and capable hero.

Despite everything happening and against Acacia better judgment—as she had secrets of her own, she took a leap of faith and accepted to follow Nicholas in his quest against art thieves.
Ensues nonsense after nonsense and non-issue after non-issue and I lost any concern I had for the main plot or enthusiasm to crack open The Man In The Black Suit.

Then the romance happened. Instantaneously. Out of nowhere.
And everything took an unexpected turn for me. I had no care at all for the insta-love the author tried to show without taking any care to build around it. It had this unequivocal feel about it.

The lack of connection between Acacia and Nicholasprevented me to believe anything serious was in the work—and yet, the hero started early on dolling out French endearments like he would address a lover of many years. His tone when addressing the heroine sounded so paternalistic it was disturbing.
Maybe for someone who doesn’t understand French, they can be received as cute, sweet and a proof of his affections. To me however, it just reinforced my opinion about a romance for show with very little substance and no meaning at all.
Their lovemaking read as formulaic, the romance was cheesy, which was not helped in any way by the use of saccharinely sweet French endearments. It was too much and not appropriate to their level of trust and intimacy.
I need to point out that I wouldn’t have believed possible for a man as refined as Nicholas to use “ma choute” to refer to his lover. I wouldn’t have the first idea how to translate it to you, it’s such a ridiculous and irritating word in French, but if you can think of the cheesiest, corniest word to address a lover, a word used by unrefined people, then that would be the word.

Details you’ll say. Probably. It killed his character for me.

What I early liked about the heroine also started to irritate me.
I like an independent woman but you can accept help and stay true to yourself. She couldn’t make up her mind about what she wanted, help Nicholas, work for him, trust him, accept his money, decline his money, be his lover, accept his friendship, go back to Paris—where she’s well aware bad guys are waiting for her—, stay on the run… The list goes on and on and then turn in circle. She seemed to look for non-existing problems when they already had their fair share of unresolved business to take care of. Aggravating!
But wait, what were they going after in the first place?

Last but not least, as if Nicholas’ enemies all over the world weren’t enough, we’re graced by layers of super secret revelations from the heroine. I won’t disclose them but I’ll just say this : Major eye-roll. Especially since it gave the heroine a reason to create yet another…non-issue about hers and Nicholas different upbringing. Sigh.

My interest already on the decline, somewhere along the 50% mark I lost what little remained of it as it became clear to me that the author’s main intention was to make me travel and make a great show of his erudite skills with words, history and arts.
That is fine I guess, and yes, I enjoy learning new words, discovering new places and acquiring new knowledge about diverse subjects, but the pedantical show of knowledge thrown in this book failed to arouse my curious nature. Quite the opposite actually.

The author’s prose was what I would call oddly particular. It felt pleasantly different from what I’m used to—at first— but became more and more tiresome and dare I say… pretentious to read.
I wondered if Sylvain Reynard was French himself, or what was his native tongue. The way he constructs sentences, his phrasing appeared stilted at times, wordy and not something I’m familiar with. It takes a while to acclimate to his writing, and I had to re-read some sentences many times to get their meaning right.

It was also confusing how the third person narrative would refer to Nicholas as “the guest” whenever he was in the hotel’s building. I would have understood it from someone from the staff, say, the heroine… But no, a third person narrative referring to characters in any other way than their names or pronouns is just strange. I don’t believe I’ve ever read something like this before.

A few statements here and there made absolutely no sense to me:

“She inspected the shampoo in the shower. The Arabic and French label declared it had been made in Morocco. Morocco. Of course she had no idea where she was in Morocco.”

The heroine seems to deduce she’s in Morocco because… the labels says the product was made in this country. Good thing whomever this bathroom belongs to shops local because according to the label on the shower gel sitting in my shower, I’m currently in Germany. Not France. Interesting logic.

To conclude, I got excited about the premise and enjoyed the set up but too many things happening all at once and my inability to get accustomed to the author’s writing in the long run as well as crumbling characters made me struggle to enjoy the story past the first half.

The Angry Reader's Review

This review is brought to you by Camille, a.k.a “The Angry Reader“.
I love her reviews and we seem to share a common taste for awesome books and blunt reviews. Check out her blog at The Angry Reader  where the motto is “Painfully Honest Book Reviews“!

A super wealthy mysterious guest checks into the hotel where Acacia is a concierge. He’s prickly. There’s banter. I’m happy happy. Then the story falls apart.

There’s a situation with some stolen art. An awful boss. A trashed apartment. Fleeing the country. Acacia picks the oddest things to obsess about – getting a job on her own, not accepting money, getting back to her apartment – when everything is crumbling around her.

The dialogue becomes trite, the story struggles and the conflicts all seem imagined or bizarre. The writing style was oddly formalistic – perhaps that contributed to some of my inability to ever slip below the surface. This book just wasn’t for me.

Author Bio & Links

I’m interested in the way literature can help us explore aspects of the human condition – particularly suffering, sex, love, faith, and redemption. My favourite stories are those in which a character takes a journey, either a physical journey to a new and exciting place, or a personal journey in which he or she learns something about himself/herself.

I’m also interested in how aesthetic elements such as art, architecture, and music can be used to tell a story or to illuminate the traits of a particular character. In my writing, I combine all of these elements with the themes of redemption, forgiveness, and the transformative power of goodness.

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