"The Yarn Woman" and "Wailing Wood" mysteries are available from Amazon.com.
A leaf-stained skull and the decomposed knitted vest of a child are discovered during a logging operation in Northern California’s last virgin redwood forest — a grove of thousand-year-old trees ominously called Wailing Wood.
There, the ghostly echoes of children’s voices, mixed with the distant calls of owls, have been heard by generations of families living in the nearby logging town of Whitesboro.
Textile forensics consultant Ruth M, known to law enforcement as “the Yarn Woman,” is called in by the county sheriff and site archaeologist to evaluate the fabric remnants. Her investigation unearths a double murder that occurred a hundred years before, and the physical evidence eerily echoes a local ghost story about Wailing Wood. ... Is the tragic tale destined to repeat itself?
“Wailing Wood” is the Yarn Woman’s fourth case chronicled by newspaperman Nat P.M. Fisher. She is accompanied to Whitesboro and to Wailing Wood by Fisher; Mr. Kasparov, her guardian and companion since childhood; and San Francisco Police Detective William Chu. The novel "Wailing Wood" will be available in September 2015 from amazon.com.
“So I was working my way down, just the same,” Cooper said, as if picking up a conversation that had been cut off only a few moments before. The sound of his voice interrupted the stillness of the ancient forest, and there was little doubt that his words attracted the attention of whatever spirits inhabit trees. “And I’d been running five or six young steers over the ridge here, over to the south branch meadow where they could graze with another part of the herd. And I come across that road grade,” he said, looking down at the cut made by the blade. We could see the hoof prints of his horse from his initial visit, and a few of his boot tracks. The big yellow grader was now off to the side.
“That part there slumped straight down, and I could see some roots and whatnot sticking out, and then some of that rock that fell to the bottom. Along the side, there, was something a little whiter than the rest and that’s what turned out to be the bone, there, in the side of the berm. The skull bone. Complete skull, but small.
“So, then, I stooped to pick it up. Anybody would. And this old barred owl swoops out of nowhere and just near hit me. With his talons out! I jumped back, I mean, and kind of thought about it a minute. He almost got a piece of me just that fast.”
They all walked closer to the cut, the sheriff in front since Cooper was mostly addressing him.
“Those tracks are mine from yesterday,” he told the sheriff. “But I didn’t touch much, not after I saw that the white really was head bones, and then there was some of that cloth sticking out there from the berm. You can still see it.”
The “bone” wasn’t white. Cooper, uncertain what he was actually looking at, had dug the skull out of the matrix by hand. The bone was light gray and yellow-brown and had been about three or four inches from the top, but now, having been extracted, the small skull lay at the base of the berm, whole, looking up into a canopy it hadn’t seen for more than a century. What would it have been thinking?
It was indeed the head of a child.
Nothing else seemed out of place other than the broad, shallow wound where the soil had been shaved down by the grader. Ruth bent down to feel the dark earth: It was more like peat than soil. That meant it was acidic, and eventually she’d need to know its pH. Had she packed the litmus papers or had she left in too much of a hurry this morning? Sometimes it was hard to remember to bring everything when there was such a good chance of needing everything you owned, down to the smallest vial of acid or a pack of matches.
The skull wasn’t much larger than a big man’s fist. Sheriff Tully, who was squatting down to get low enough, brushed the remaining dirt from bone, and the brow and nose crest became more visible. The skull was stained like a cracked eggshell that had been soaked in coffee. Amid the illusion of cracking, the dark, tannin-rich outlines of small leaves were imprinted like tattoos on the bone itself. They wreathed the little head like a fairy crown, like an elf’s tiara. I felt I was looking at a drawing from a children’s grotesque fairy tale.
The small bit of protruding fiber, the cloth or clothing, was hardly discernable. But Tully studied it, sighed, and mumbled, “It’s murder.” His voice was swallowed by the trees.
Ruth was aware of Sheriff Tully’s unexpected and premature conclusion: murder. She’d heard him, though most of the others weren’t near enough. But, she realized, he had enough experience in his life to make such a call with confidence. Perhaps It was the appearance of the cloth, she thought, that influenced his words.
She couldn’t take her eyes off the elven head with its sylvan coronet and knelt down near Tully with her nose almost touching it. She wondered morosely what it would look like with light, curling hair, like the boy’s she’d seen earlier. But she managed to break the spell and turned and looked closely at the exposed fibers just a few inches away.
Behind the old Ledger newspaper in "Wailing Wood" is a train trestle, used to haul massive logs from the forest to the mill.