The new cover of my Tarrytown mystery novel, The Ice Cream Shop Detective, shows instantly that it’s all about art. My book was inspired by two separate experiences: doing copies of master paintings at the Metropolitan Museum and getting to know a real police detective.
My protagonist is struggling artist Lissa Franklin, whose life changes when she meets Nick Bellini as he arrives one evening to help his sisters in their busy ice cream shop. His character and the title of my book were inspired by “Mr. B,” as everyone called him when he was in Tarrytown’s Main Street Sweets. His real job was chief of detectives in the Tarrytown PD. But Nick and Lissa are fictional people with their own circumstances. They experience many things and investigate crimes that happened only in my imagination.
The two meet while she’s new in town, knowing no one, with her easel set up to paint on Main Street. The building that attracted her most has been painted yellow with orange and olive-green trim; the ice cream shop on the ground floor has a lively red-and-white striped awning. Nick comes along and tells her his family owns not only the shop but the whole building, and had renovated it themselves. As they get to know each other, he buys some of her paintings and commissions her to add to the shop’s mural. When he’s told by the FBI that forgeries may be coming out of the area, it’s Lissa he consults. All Nick asks at first is that she keep her eyes open for paintings that don’t look quite right. Before she knows it, she’s at a murder scene, joining in the search for clues. Her involvement puts her own life in danger, but there’s no going back.
To Lissa spotting forgeries is about more than whether the crime of fraud has been committed. Doing copies and looking at those by many other copyists at the museum gave me some insight into the difference between capability and true mastery. Seeing life transformed into art touches something deep in the psyches of many people of diverse backgrounds. How well it’s done matters to how much enjoyment people get from the painting. But the serious thoughts and moments of suspense in my book come within a light and romantic narrative, because above all I want my readers to enjoy it.
The Ice Cream Shop Detective is available in Tarrytown at Transom Books, 23 Main Street, and Bella’s Boutique, 35 North Broadway, and at The Village Bookstore in Pleasantville, and on Amazon.