I have vague memories of reading this book while on the train in New Jersey, which would put my reading of it around 2007-2010. The book started with someone breaking into the house of an old woman, snooping around for something, and when the intruder runs into the old woman, and later her younger caretaker (who I think they noted was not supposed to be there), they beat the two of them to death. After that, we cut to the police examination of the scene, where the general consensus was that it was a burglary gone wrong, and that there have been some other cases like that in the area. The main detective has their doubts, in part due to the sheer brutality of the murders, which don't feel like the actions of a scared person lashing out.

I don't remember the middle of the book, but I remember near the end, where the detective finds a spool of red thread in a victim's sewing kit, and it leads them to find that the old women who died were helping to forge a counterfeit quilt. I forget the details, but it had something to do with a feminist art display involving a woman, in an abusive relationship, who encoded messages in her quilts through patterns of the red thread, with said quilts currently being very hot on the art market. It stuck with me because, while I'd seen crime mysteries based around art forgery, it was the first time I'd seen quilting come up. That and I remember thinking at the time that it kind of flipped the characterization of the victims in that they'd been engaged in a criminal enterprise at the time of their death (I think they might have been revealed to be trying to extort a little more money from the people who'd hired them), but it was also a sort of morally grey crime, since it was based off of the completely arbitrary value of items in the art marketplace.

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I started looking back on books that I'd read in the time period, and remembered that I'd been reading a lot of John Sandford books, in particular his Lucas Davenport mysteries (I think I got one of the books as part of a bundle of books on EBay). A search for site:goodreads.com sandford davenport quilts brought up more matches than I expected, but one of them looks right, Invisible Prey, 17th in the Davenport series, and apparently debuting Virgil Flowers, who received his own spin-off series.

In the richest neighbourhood of Minneapolis, two elderly women lie murdered in their home, killed with a pipe, the rooms ransacked, only small items stolen. It's clearly a random break-in by someone looking for money to buy drugs. But as he looks more closely, Davenport begins to wonder if the items are actually so small or the victims so random, if there might not be some invisible agenda at work here. Gradually, a pattern begins to emerge — and it will lead Davenport to somewhere he never expected. Which is too bad, because the killers — and yes, there is more than one of them — the killers are expecting him.

Some of the reviews mention the quilts and antiquities, and I found some text online mentioning the red thread clue.

“Huh.” A thread of scarlet caught Lucas's eye. He got closer, his nose six inches from the quilt. “Huh.”

Had to be bullshit. Then he thought, no it doesn't -as far as he could tell, the thread was exactly the same shade as the thread on the spool he'd found behind the stove at Marilyn Coombs's. But that thread had come from Arkansas…

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