Lois Duncan

“My primary message (I hope) is that reading is fun. Another underlying message, which seems to work its way into many of my books, is the importance of taking responsibility for one’s own actions.”—Lois Duncan

Lois Duncan has received awards from the Mystery Writers of America and was the 1991 recipient of the School Library Journal/Young Adult Library Services Association Margaret K. Edwards Award. Many of her books have been named ALA Best Books for Young Adults.


Lois Duncan grew up in Sarasota, Florida, and from early childhood she knew she wanted to be a writer. She submitted her first story to a magazine at the age of 10 and made her first sale at 13. Throughout her high school years, she wrote regularly for young people’s publications, particularly Seventeen magazine.

“My first book was a young adult novel because I wrote it at age 20, and teenage subject matter was all I knew about,” Duncan says. “Today, although I write other types of books as well, I still choose to write primarily for teenagers because I love the sensitivity, vulnerability, and responsiveness of that age reader.”

Duncan is best known for her brilliant psychological suspense novels. She was drawn to this genre because those were the books she most enjoyed reading. Of her writing technique, she once said, “Although I’ve been told that some authors start writing with only a general idea in mind and let their stories evolve on their own, I couldn’t work that way. My books are tightly plotted and carefully constructed; every sentence is there for a reason. Personally, I can’t imagine writing a book without knowing exactly how it’s going to end. It would be like setting out on a cross-country trip without a road map.”

Ironically, however, the story closest to Duncan’s heart still doesn’t have an ending. Who Killed My Daughter?, the heart-wrenching account of her search for the truth behind the murder of her 18-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn, was written in real time as the horror story unfolded. When the Albuquerque, New Mexico, police department dubbed Kait’s death a random shooting, ignoring evidence to the contrary, Duncan launched her own investigation. Her search for the answers took her into the underworld of Vietnamese gangs and led her to seek the help of the nation’s top psychic detectives, who, along with a courageous newspaper reporter, provided information that proved to her that Kait’s death was far from random. Written to motivate informants, the book was featured on such shows as Good Morning, America, Larry King Live, and Unsolved Mysteries. “Tips have come in, but we still need concrete evidence,” says Duncan.

“I continue to believe that we will get it.”

Her next writing project was, by necessity, of a totally different nature. “There was no way I could force myself to create a fictional mystery when our real-life mystery was consuming me,” she says. “For sanity’s sake, I decided that I had to switch channels.” The result was The Circus Comes Home, a book for all ages about life behind the scenes at Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Duncan’s hometown was winter quarters for the circus in the 1940s, and her photographer father, Joseph Steinmetz, captured its magic on film. His remarkable photographs of elephants climbing onto the circus train; Emmett Kelly, the clown, in a bubble bath; and the Flying Wallendas teaching their four-year-old to walk the high wire provide stunning illustrations for Duncan’s colorful essay about “a life that was fashioned of sawdust and star dust.”

Duncan’s most popular teenage novels have had to do with psychic phenomena, a subject that she admits she used to consider fantasy. “Today I believe differently,” she says. “My experiences with psychic detectives during Kait’s murder investigation have forced me to change my mind about what is and isn’t possible. I feel a responsibility to let my readers know that ESP, as represented in books of mine such as A Gift of Magic and The Third Eye, is a reality.”

Her nonfiction book, Psychic Connections: A Journey into the Mysterious World of Psi, written in collaboration with William Roll, Ph.D., project director for the Psychical Research Foundation, introduces teenagers to the fascinating world of parapsychology. Based on laboratory research and documented case histories, Psychic Connections addresses such subjects as astral projection, near death experiences, apparitions and hauntings, poltergeists, clairvoyance, telepathy, and practical applications of ESP, such as the use of psychic detectives by law enforcement. Dr. Richard Broughton, Director of Research at the Institute for Parapsychology, calls this book “an engaging introduction to an aspect of human nature that may seem scary and mysterious, but ultimately will yield to scientific understanding.”



“Duncan delights in building suspense brick by brick until she has a whole creepy wall to collapse at the climax.”—Publishers Weekly

“Entertaining and enlightening, this is a book that should have wide appeal.”—VOYA

“An exciting, suspenseful tale that will certainly be welcomed by Duncan's many fans.”—School Library Journal

A Journey into the Mysterious World of Psi
(written in collaboration with William Roll, Ph.D.)

“It’s not often you find a book that gives you a solid education in a fascinating field, opens your mind to wider realities, and yet is easy and delightful to read, but Psychic Connections is one of these treasures.”—Charles Tart, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Psychology, University of California, Davis

“A magical glance into the mysterious, exciting world of the circus.”—American Bookseller

“Fresh and magical.”—The Horn BookMagazine

“A fascinating insider’s view of a topic with perennial charm.”—Kirkus Reviews


“A spellbinding tale of uniquely contemporary horror . . . fast paced and enthralling.”—Starred, School Library Journal

“Highly original . . . a gothic novel that is more a commentary on the dangers of education than of the perils of unrequited love.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Brilliant . . . a powerful study of good and evil.”—Publishers Weekly

“Impeccably structured, convincing and harrowing.”—Publishers Weekly

“The best of the sinister and supernatural. Spine-chilling.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Plenty of page-turning suspense. Chalk this up as another of [Duncan’s] winners.”—Booklist

“Duncan skillfully draws readers into this twisting and suspenseful plot.”—School Library Journal

“Master storyteller Lois Duncan has proved that truth can be more heartbreaking, more moving, more terrible than any fiction. No one who reads this account of her search for her daughter’s murderer will ever forget it.”—Tony Hillerman