I had the opportunity to interview Ronnie Levine, artist and author of the Ice Cream Shop Detective, a story inspired by a quaint town north of the city.
There are various subgenres of murder mysteries that have been told but none like this one. Uncover the truth behind the murder and art forgery into the world of Ronnie Levine’s novel the Ice Cream Shop Detective. This book showcases the art world like you’ve never experienced it before, and it all starts with the setting. I got the opportunity to speak with Ronnie and find out how she created this story from the inspiration of a small town like Tarrytown.
The setting is the most important part of any story. This one is set in a small river town called Tarrytown located in Westchester county. If you’ve never taken the metro north past the Bronx, Tarrytown is a small town along the Hudson River just fifty-four minutes outside of New York City. I asked Ronnie about the inspiration for the story and what made her choose Tarrytown.
“I knew no one in town when I set up on the street to paint a group of buildings I found beautiful, including the one with the ice cream shop, and he and his family came out repeatedly to look (which I always love.)”
Levine shared more details about how this rivertown was a part of the process that would become this page-turning mystery novel and how her writing was inspired by the places she’d pass by every single day,
“Good writing can make anyplace a good setting for a page-turning mystery. The warmth of the reception I got when I started painting in Tarrytown made it special to me and that's something else I wanted to get down on paper.”
This is a story that had me on the edge of my seat chapter after chapter and it was the perfect read for when I was traveling on the train, sitting in a coffee shop, or needed a break from studying.
If you paid attention to the cover, you’ll see the words “Art Mystery.” How is this different from any other art murder mystery? Well, this one has a more light-hearted approach to the situation, with added tones of suspense throughout the story. In addition to being a writer, Levine is also an artist. I've had the pleasure to view some of her artwork and wanted to know if any of her projects had influenced her creativity when she wrote the story.
"I see the world as an artist, I live to capture its beauty because everything changes and because I enjoy it so much I write to have a second way to share that pleasure with other people."
She has created various paintings that were inspired by the landscape of Tarrytown.
A novel like the Ice Cream Shop Detective is one that not many readers are familiar with, if you get the chance to read it you won’t be able to put it down. Levine shared her thoughts about what it is about this novel that appeals to the reader.
“I think my book appeals to people who are interested in art because I do know my subject, and I wrote it in the uncomplicated tone of someone telling a story to a friend. I came up with a story about an unusual and unexpected time in the life of a dedicated artist, an adventure, you might say, told in a light and (I hope) sometimes witty way.”
Readers will love how Levine’s characters come to life on the page and the humor that she creates in this novel.
Every small town has its own place that makes its residents feel like there is nowhere else in the world they’d rather live. For a small rivertown like Tarrytown, it has its own share of places that make residents love calling it home. Levine shared with us what she loves most about Tarrytown that those who aren’t from the area wouldn’t understand.
“The Music Hall keeps Tarrytown particularly lively. I love painting on Main Street when crowds are arriving for shows. Their air of anticipation is very pleasant and stimulating. There are also traditions I enjoy, such as parades, and organizations one can join and get involved with making things run. It doesn't shut down early, with many restaurants and supermarkets open late. For me, nothing is missing here. It's a good place to make a life.”
A town like Tarrytown, even though it's small, is a great place to enjoy beautiful scenery and peace and quiet.
Writing a murder mystery novel does not come without its challenges. As a writer myself, I was curious to learn more about how Ronnie reimagined a place so mundane and turned it into a magical setting. Levine shared her advice for young writers who aspire to create their own murder mystery novels.
“My advice to young writers is to be persistent, stick with your book even if it takes years to complete while you do other things, and be aware that if you bring a well-read book into the world, that gives you some power to influence the future. I'm strongly against violence and made sure my book reads as an experience of setting wrongs right, with no graphic violence and therefore no chance to feed anyone's antisocial tendencies. It's a cozy mystery in which bad things happen and people work to make the world right again.”
Out of all the great things Ronnie taught me through our interview, one has stuck with me the most. Trust your instincts when it comes to your ideas, you’re the only one who knows your story inside and out.