"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.

This image of the Golden Gate, circa 1873, by engravers Smillie and Brandard, shows the early city from Telegraph Hill. The engravings were hand colored. Ruth has this one in a folio near the top of her bookcase; one needs a ladder to get to it.

  Ghosts of the Albert Townsend

A tremendous offshore storm loosens the shipwrecked remains of a nineteenth century schooner from the silt a few hundred yards off the San Francisco shore. The appearance of the Albert Townsend seemingly has nothing to do with a vicious murder that occurs only days later, or with the severe beating and animal mauling of a precocious girl in the same area directly south of the surfaced Townsend.
    But when the SFPD calls in their forensic textile consultant to analyze their only clue — an old, blood-soaked wool garment — the trail leads directly, impossibly, back to the schooner. Ghosts of the Albert Townsend marks newspaper reporter Nat Fisher's first case with the brilliant and eccentric Ruth M, known to police and the FBI as "the Yarn Woman."


  Though it was still autumn, there was a hint of rain and a suggestion of winter when I first saw her. She was visible, but the light was dim and her form indistinct. For some reason she waved when she saw me — that much I could see in the late evening fog.
  I smiled and waved back because I didn’t know what else to do; I had no idea who she was. Her gown was blue or gray or white, I wasn’t sure because it seemed to fade and I couldn’t tell if she was in the fog or if she was the fog.
  Yet despite the dark and the mist and the distance between us, I could tell her eyes were intensely green.
  Then the strangest thing happened: A white and gray Silver Cloud floated across the street, as only a Rolls can float, moving against the traffic and through it, parting a vaporous sea of screeching tires like a mechanical Moses amid blaring horns and pumping fists, and it pulled slowly up to the curb, facing the wrong direction. A short, thick older man calmly got out and walked around the car. He was silhouetted by the headlamps and I could make out his enormous nose and protruding teeth. He graciously opened the rear door for her. They left, the Rolls nearly silent as it passed into San Francisco’s neverland.
  I waved again, trying to make sense of the other-worldliness of what had just occurred. I was left only with the image of those eyes, which I would never forget.
  I didn’t see her again until we were introduced by my boyhood friend, San Francisco Police Detective William Chu, two long years later during the first week of October. Yet this was the same woman; there was no doubt.
  Detective Chu is no citizen of that misty other-world inhabited by mysterious green eyes and silent gray cars. He lives in the iron-shod underside of San Francisco, a gritty land peopled by tainted saints and homeless psychos, and the circumstances surrounding my introduction to this woman after so long were therefore harsh: She’d been called in as a consultant in a case that involved the grisly killing of an adult male and the beating and animal mauling of a six-year-old child. The detective’s most important clue was an old shawl that had been wrapped around her by, according to Chu, "persons unknown." This fell perfectly into this Yarn Woman’s area of forensic textile expertise: If Chu could find the owner or uncover the provenance of the wrap, he might eventually find the perpetrators of the crimes.
  Chu relies on her because she has a knack of seeing what others don’t, and in more ways than one. She’d worked with the SFPD, and with Chu specifically, on a number of earlier cases that I knew nothing about, and she had become a sort of myth among the cops — more like a resolute Diana than a seductive Venus, yet unreachable to mortals nonetheless.
  The police call her their Yarn Woman; they have a name for everyone, though most are derogatory or at least laced with locker-room humor. But hers was bestowed as a nom de guerre; those few who knew her and worked with her had accepted her into their own ranks — as much as that’s possible among the blue-clad.
  When we were introduced, I was following up on an unrelated story, a shooting, and happened to be at the hospital where the six-year-old mauling victim had been taken, half-conscious and soaked in her own blood. And Detective Chu, urged, I can only guess, by the capricious Fates, decided I should meet this extraordinary green-eyed consultant whom he’d managed to keep secret for so long.


“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.