I was all excited to read The Man in the Black Suit. It’s a jet-setting, glamorous romantic suspense set around the art world, and if you wrote all those things on a piece of paper and put it under a propped up box, you’d have yourself an effective Elyse trap.
The first part of the book was good, really good, but the last third went completely off the rails and enraged the hell out of me.
The book opens in Paris where Acacia Santos works as a concierge at an exclusive hotel. She reflects that:
Being a concierge was in some respects like being a detective. One had to solve problems, find things, and on occasion, locate people.
Good thing Acacia has all those skills because she’s about to be thrown into an international art-theft intrigue.
Acacia is filling in for one of the other concierges, Marcel, who was attacked outside the hotel and is in a coma. One of their most exclusive guests, Nicholas Cassirer, is not happy to learn of this. Nicholas is something of a mystery to the hotel staff. He stays in the penthouse, he wants to work exclusively with Marcel, he only wears black suits, he has a security staff that’s kinda scary, and he has a scar on one side of his face.
One day Acacia is delivering something to his room when she sees what she believes is a stolen painting. She notifies the authorities and sets off an explosive chain of events.
But of course it’s not what it looks like. Nicholas is really a rich man from an old-money family who is pretending to be an international smuggler in order to find the art thieves who murdered his sister during a burglary. OF COURSE HE IS.
Marcel was helping him keep up that guise (unknowingly) when Nicholas’s enemies attacked him trying to get information. Now they are after Acacia, and because this is a romantic suspense, Acacia agrees to help Nicholas find the art thieves by flying all over the world in a private jet and eating amazing meals and wearing designer shoes that I can only fantasize about. Why does Acacia need designer shoes, bags, and scarves? Because sometimes she poses as Nicholas’s assistant, other times as his mistress, and either way she has to look the part. This is a unapologetically glamorous book.
The end goal is to find out who financed the theft that killed Nicholas’s sister, and if possible, get his family’s art back. Acacia talks about just wanting her life to go back to normal, but TBH, if I was laying on a beach in Greece wearing a bikini that looked amazing on me and there was a gorgeous, mysterious guy sunning next to me, I wouldn’t be too eager to get the mystery solved.
I feel compelled to mention that Acacia has a cat and when they were about flee Paris (and I assumed someone would sack her apartment because that’s what happens in these books) I had a lot of anxiety about what would happen to the cat. Luckily the cat is fine. The cat stays with a friend.
So I was loving the first two-thirds of this book super hard. It was all my catnip. Then everything took a turn for the worst.
Now, the reader is told from the beginning that Acacia is hiding a secret. We also know that she’s Brazilian and Jordanian, and that she sends her mom money in Brazil. She’s also been trying to lay low.
Then, in Dubai with Nicholas, Acacia sees her dad…who is a Jordanian arms dealer. He promptly kidnaps her.
Turns out her father is a fundamentalist Muslim, a terrorist, and an abusive man, and Acacia and her mother fled him years ago and went into hiding. He somehow recognizes Acacia despite not having seen her since she was a child, and he loses it because she’s been living with a Jewish man (it’s mentioned in passing that Nicholas is Jewish).
First of all, even if we aren’t talking about how shitty and reductive it is to make Acacia’s Muslim father a terrorist who hates Jewish people, this whole section is just shoe-horned into to the story. It doesn’t further the plot in any way. It just gives the narrative a stereotyped, offensive character who creates an opportunity for Acacia to be physically hurt and for Nicholas to save her.
Okay, now I am going to talk about shitty and reductive it is to make Acacia’s Muslim father a terrorist who hates Jewish people.
What the actual fuck?
This is racist, reductive, lazy characterization. It’s completely unnecessary in GENERAL and also unnecessary TO THE REST OF THE BOOK. It’s offensive. There’s no reason for any of it except to be offensive.
It pissed me off. Here I am enjoying my heroine trying on some fucking Hermes scarves and having great sex with this mysterious dude and swimming in giant infinity pools and THEN THIS SHIT SHOWS UP.
The story lured me in with glamour and intrigue, then it got racist and terrible. I am so mad right now just thinking about it. I finished the book, thinking maybe it would turn around, maybe the cat would be the one to fix all this racist crap, but no. It went to hell, and stayed there.
So yeah, The Man in the Black Suit starts out great, then turns super fucking problematic. No, thanks.
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