A Discerning Eye — Carol Orange [ARC REVIEW]

  • Read Date: September 27, 2020
  • Rating: 2.5/5
  • Format: E-ARC

I received a free advanced reader copy of A Discerning Eye from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Art heist, FBI, scandal, drug lords, affairs, the mafia…. the list goes on! When a seemingly unrelated combination of paintings are heisted from a reputable Boston art museum, smaller-scale dealer Portia Malatesta might be the only hope of recovering them. A Discerning Eye follows the FBI investigation of this theft — based on real events! — and the relationship of good and bad, light and dark, both in art and in life.

To be very candid, they had me in the first half.

Early on, when we met Portia and her family, we learned about her gallery, her background, her cunning and her penchant for spotting a masterpiece, I was hooked! Witnessing Portia in her Bostonian element and watching her piece together a mystery was captivating! At times a few turns of phrase seemed overly-explanatory, gilding the lily a bit, but it was easy to forgive because the content was spectacular!

However, as the book progresses, there is a significant shift — most obviously in location, among other things — and things just became less enticing. The last half of the book was incredibly slow, for me, and didn’t quite live up to the exposition. The dialogue continues to be overly descriptive, tending frequently to serve more as information to the reader, rather than an interaction between two characters or even a balance of both components.

Notably, it becomes, at times, challenging to root for our protagonists. We’re introduced to Portia, her husband Stansky, her best friend Margot, etc. in very distinct ways, yet many of these characters’ actions and thoughts betray their initially established archetypes. For example, after having introduced Stansky as a trusted, supportive, and equal mate, he, confusingly, becomes very unlikeable at the drop of a hat; this seems to happen only to set up Portia’s wavering affections as forgivable, but both of these elements came pretty much out of left field.

There is a lot of good in here, most specifically in the course the mystery takes from beginning to end. The heist’s trajectory itself is fascinating and well plotted, but the detail and fleshing out of the story’s main conceit leaves a little to be desired.

Of course, as I always like to say at the end of a less-than-stellar review, just because it didn’t work for me does not mean it won’t work for you. Reading, interpretation, etc. is all subjective! If A Discerning Eye sounds like something you’ll enjoy, by all means, pick it up! If you are interested in world travels, secrecy and undercover work, the art world, and inside baseball, you will enjoy this book!

A Discerning Eye hits shelves on October 15th, so keep an eye out!

Thanks for stopping by and, as always, happy reading 🙂


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