"I was covering a street shooting for the Daily Bulletin when I met her. It was pure luck, but isn't half of life just luck?
  She lives above a retired Art Deco theater in San Francisco’s Sunset District with an old long-haired cat, her harpsichord and enough yarn to fill a railroad car.
  The police call her the Yarn Woman. Her specialty is the forensic study of textiles. But they ask for her help with some trepidation because they know that whatever crime she’s unraveling for them comes with a lot of knots and baggage. And ghosts. There are always the ghosts."

— Nat P.M. Fisher


  Brooks Mencher has been a Bay Area newspaper editor and writer for twenty years at the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, and Oakland Tribune, and also edited newspapers on California's North Coast.


The new Yarn Woman mystery, The Rusalka Wheel, is now available from Amazon.com.

Wailing Wood is the second Yarn Woman Book. Click the title to read a synopsis and excerpts.

Ghosts of the Albert Townsend, The Fisherman's Wife, and The Boy in the Mist are published collectively in trade paperback and e-book as The Yarn Woman. Click their titles to read synopses and excerpts of each.

"Friday, who spent his sun-damaged days watching the tides roll in and out, believed he could read the script on the cliff sides, and stumbled only occasionally over unfamiliar grammatical constructions. No one knew about his fluency because he was considered shy ..."
— From The Fisherman's Wife

  The Fisherman's Wife

Human remains are discovered on a beach south of Half Moon Bay by a homeless Gulf War vet, the brother of San Mateo County Sheriff's Deputy Dennis Avila. Soon, the brothers are plagued by nigthtmares of the dead man and a strange woman — and the terrible feeling of impending catastrophe.
    With little to go on in identifying the deceased, Avila realizes that the traditional knitting pattern in the dead man's sweater might lead to a clan or family, and even cast a light on the man's mysterious death. He contacts the Yarn Woman, and she begins to unlock the meaning behind the peculiar sweater, telling Avila that though he may be searching for a dead man's identity, he must, above all, find the man's imperiled wife before time runs out.
    When Ruth, working again with Nat Fisher, does locate her, she's faced with much more than a survivor of terrible abuse and imprisonment — she finds herself staring directly into the eyes of an ancient myth.


  Uri Kasparov reached for the phone to his right. It was 5 a.m. and he was seated in the Deco kiosk of the Avaluxe Theater checking his email on a netbook that he'd set up slightly to his left. He was already an hour into his day. Both communication contraptions were nestled on a narrow, dark mahogany ticket-taker's shelf alongside a stack of paperbacks and a week-old edition of the Kiev Segodnya that he picked up from an old Soviet-era informer who lived quietly on Clement Street. There was a long scissors on the other side of the black rotary phone and a few empty 35mm film canisters and a bulk loader. His hand hovered over the receiver a few seconds and he twisted his thick wrist to look at his watch. He smiled, his huge gapped teeth working their way into the air of the kiosk.
  "Mm?" he said. Anyone who called at this hour really didn't want to speak with anybody, but probably wanted to leave a message. That's what Kasparov liked about email. "Have you considered email?" he asked, his tone formal yet friendly. He smiled as he spoke, as if his unseen friendliness had some degree of effect. He listened to the voice on the other end.
  "The Miss is currently occupied." he said, "May I take a message? Oh, I see. She does not like to be interrupted, I am afraid. No. I couldn't think of it. I see that it is 5:03 a.m." He fiddled with the receiver cord, running it between his thick, knuckled fingers. "Ah. How interesting. Well, I will construct an approach, then, if I may call you back shortly. Yes? Now, if you would please give me the situation in brief for my presentation."
  He waited on the phone, listening carefully, minutely, to the radio-like voice on the other end of the line. After a few minutes he closed the conversation, hung up and picked up his newspaper. Avoidance was the wrong approach, he decided, and picked up the receiver again, risking a call up to apartment No. 8. It was now close to 6. His face contorted with each ring, as if it were forcing an electric current into his eye. She picked up on the eighth ring, which was not a good sign.
  "No, no," he said. "Yes. Of interest! Of great interest! Yes. Yes. If I may . . ."
  With that, Kasparov began an itemized presentation about the body that had been found on a beach about sixty miles south of San Francisco and how a consultation with her might lead to its identification. At first, the Yarn Woman was reticent to work with a law enforcement agency she wasn't familiar with, but Kasparov, for reasons he wasn't sure about, convinced her of the need to participate, and she resigned herself to listen to him. An hour or so later, she asked him to call the San Mateo County Sheriff's Department to set up a meeting. "And call Mr. Fisher," she added, "See if he's interested."
  "He is," Kasparov said. He turned to dial.
  I had worked with the enigmatic forensic textile consultant whom the police refer to as "the Yarn Woman" on one previous case. She, however, had worked with the San Francisco Police Department on more than twenty cases, some as serious as multiple murder, as well as more than half a dozen with federal agencies including the FBI, ATF and TSA. Yet I had never heard of her until our paths crossed a few months ago regarding a missing child and deadly dog mauling. And I had not seen her since — she is reclusive. She's eccentric. I think she spends her days knitting or lecturing on fiber history. She has a harpsichord; I do not know if she plays professionally but I have no doubt she is excellent. Her eyes are unforgettably green and she, herself, is unforgettable if, I must add, as etheric as mist. The phone call from Kasparov Uri Kasparov, a political refugee from Ukraine during the Brezhnev era who had, for reasons unknown to me, become the Yarn Woman's driver and, for want of words, self-assigned bodyguard, offered a welcome glimmer of hope that I would see her again just as I had begun to feel great despair over the matter.
  I was careful not to seem over-eager. I told Mr. Kasparov I would have to re-arrange my schedule but that I would be available.


“Well-developed characters match the intriguing premise.”

  “Mencher paints it as he sees it, giving us a refreshingly eccentric, modern-day Miss Marple to solve a gruesome mystery ... a narrative with rich characters and vivid scenes that are fun to read.”

Clara Parkes, Knitter’s Review

“They blend together the feeling of traditional mysteries, Sherlock — complete with a Dr Watson, a dash of cozy and a little sprinkle of noir. Yarn Woman makes an excellent summer read.”

Jillian Moreno, Knitty Magazine


      The Yarn Woman mysteries are available from Amazon.com.