A Discerning Eye
By Carol Orange
Portia Malatesta, an art dealer and a docent at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, is devastated by the robbery of thirteen paintings. Vermeer’s Concert had been her artist brother’s favorite, and its loss intensifies her grief over his recent death. As the days drift by, and the police can’t find any leads, Portia analyzes the stolen art and discovers that the thief did not remove the most valuable work, but has instead chosen moody paintings.
Driven to share her insights, Portia meets Julian Henderson, an Oxford–educated maverick heading the FBI’s Art Crime Unit. The FBI searches their database to see if they can match her profile of the thief. Within 24 hours they confirm rumors about a Colombian suspect with a hidden room. The FBI hires Portia to join their team, and she travels with them to drug-riddled Medellin. Her role is to befriend the drug lord’s wife and gain entry into the villa.
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A Discerning Eye is available on audio, read by actors Campbell Scott and Kathleen McElfresh.
A Discerning Eye
"An art dealer, Orange already knew the paintings that had been taken, but she decided to study them further, searching for clues about the mastermind behind the theft. “I looked at the art because that’s my training,” she said. “And I recognized this underlying chiaroscuro theme, the tension between shadow and light.”
The interplay of shadow and light became a narrative through-line in “A Discerning Eye,” the novel she would write about the Gardner heist. For the main character, Orange created Portia Malatesta, a Boston-based art dealer very much like Orange herself. But there the comparisons end. “She’s much braver than I am,” Orange said, adding that in the novel, Portia is willing to risk her life, tangling with dangerous criminals to get the stolen paintings back.
—Kate Tuttle, The Boston Globe
"Through its loving and loveable protagonist Portia Malatesta, A Discerning Eye takes the reader on a journey that's both tense and wonderfully escapist. Carol Orange's rich knowledge of art history and powers of visual description demonstrated throughout elevate the adventure into the realm of John Le Carre-sophistication."
—Evgenia Peretz, Vanity Fair contributing editor and screenwriter
"Braving Colombian drug lords and the mean streets of Medellin, the intrepid art investigator in A Discerning Eye takes readers on a wild ride in search of the dramatic 1990 art heist of 13 masterpieces from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, spinning the brazen theft into a fascinating well-researched thriller in the growing art crime genre.”
—Anne-Marie O’Connor, author of The Lady in Gold, the Extraordinary Tale
of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Block-Bauer
“Art and theft. It’s always an intoxicating combination and Carol Orange captures the high stakes in her beguiling, beautifully written debut novel A Discerning Eye.”
—Marcy Dermansky, author of Very Nice
"Carol Orange's A Discerning Eye is an intricate tale of art theft, bolstering a sensational plot with finely crafted characters and evocative settings—an enthralling novel not only for suspense seekers and art connoisseurs but everyone who enjoys a fabulous romp."
—Alev Lytle Croutier, author of Seven Houses, Harem and The World Behind the Veil
"Take a museum heist of thirteen classic works of art, throw in an outraged and clever art dealer who takes it upon herself to create a profile of the thieves, and mix in an FBI sting, and you get an intelligent, fascinating mystery that leaves the reader on a high-stakes, international chase to solve the question of whodunnit and why. Carol Orange, with her vast knowledge of the art world has created a fascinating mystery that will keep you on the edge of wherever you happen to be reading A Discerning Eye."
—Charles Salzberg, Two-time Shamus nominated author of Swann's Last Song and Second Story Man
"Carol Orange’s debut is a whirl of a read. An art heist from a Boston museum motivates a clever art dealer to help the FBI recover the stolen masterpieces. With marital tensions, a tempting flirtation, and dangerous encounters with a Colombian drug lord, A Discerning Eye keeps the reader guessing. You’ll be swept up in this fast-paced adventure, while learning about great art along the way."
—Nicole Bokat, author of What Matters Most and The Happiness Thief (2021)
"A beautiful read. An outstanding plot. An amazing female sleuth. I loved this eventful and absorbing journey through the gilded streets of Boston’s Back Bay to the dangerous Colombian byways of the Medellín drug cartel. The reader follows the art historian and gallery owner Portia Malatesta as she decodes trails left after a tragic art heist leaves a prominent museum denuded of more than a dozen masterworks. Carol Orange tells us when the choice of a Vermeer means more than the cash value of a painting. The human heart is compromised as well."
—Miriam Brody, author of Mary Wollstonecraft: Mother of Women’s Rights
"A Discerning Eye is a masterclass in art history as Portia parlays her eye for technique and form into forensic psychology. Guiding us through these portraits of art, crime, and the streets of Medellin is Ms. Orange, our own docent, who in past lives has worked as a research editor of art books and a gallerist, much like her protagonist."
—Andy Shi, Bloom
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Author Q&A at Simmons University Alumnae Affairs with Gail Deegan
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Carol Orange is the author of A DISCERNING EYE. Her work has been published in The Atherton Review, Indelible Ink, and SheKnows among others. Carol has been interviewed and featured on CrimeReads, The Writing Cooperative, Bloom and HokToc. She is a long-term member of the New York Society Library fiction-writing group headed by published author John Buchanan. She holds an MBA from Simmons University.
She has worked as an editor of art books in London and owned an art gallery in Boston. Her Etsy store features many of the artists she represented, as well as vintage posters she collected from all over the world.
Carol also spent two years in Paris, where she researched the life and times of George Sand and developed a series of Sand-Chopin salons with concert pianist Virginia Eskin. She recently moved to Chicago to be near her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter, and is at work on her next novel about art theft.
Publications & Awards
Carol's fiction and first person nonfiction essays have been widely published in literary journals and blogs. Additionally she received commendation for her fiction from Warren Adler's Short Story contest in 2011.
Carol's publications and awards include:
"A Discerning Eye Review" in AudioFile Magazine
"Write Now with Carol Orange: Why this novelist always leaves a writing session with an unanswered question" Q&A with Justin Cox in The Writing Cooperative
"A Discerning Eye by Carol Orange" Q&A with Doriana Molla in HocTok
"7 Great Heist Novels, Recommended by an Art Dealer" in CrimeReads
Short story, "Close Call," in The Atherton Review
Short story, "Delicious Dates," Honorable Mention and publication in Warren Adler's Short Story Anthology, 2011
Personal essay, "Idealism Takes a Hit," in Indelible Ink
Personal essay, "How a Lost Tampon (Almost) Helped Me Find Love," in SheKnows
Conferences & Workshops
Carol has participated in several of the most competitive writing workshops globally. In 2019 she attended The Writer's Hotel Writing Conference in New York. She has also attended the Squaw Valley Community of Writers Workshop, Catapult NYC Writing Workshop, and Grub Street Boston's, "The Muse and the Marketplace," Workshop. When she lived in Paris she attended the Paris Writers’ Workshop and studied with published novelist Thomas E. Kennedy.