When I was in school, my lunches were spent huddled in a corner of the library, feet propped up on the table, reading a book. The teachers would always push a Beverly Cleary or Judy Blume book in my hand and with a wide smile proclaim that I was going to “absolutely love it!” I enjoyed most of the proffered books, but I was drawn more to the peculiar, the mysterious, the morbid and otherworldly. After having force-read all the Fudge books the library had to offer, I turned toward a genre that was more suited to my particular style; it was then that I fell in love with the books of Lois Duncan. My young obsession began with her novel, Down A Dark Hall and then I couldn’t stop reading her.
Lois Duncan was the author of over 50 books, mostly YA, but she wrote some children and adult books as well. She wrote the book-turned-movie I Know What You Did Last Summer, Stranger With My Face, Killing Mr. Griffin, and many other YA suspense novels.
This past June, at the age of 82, the successful writer passed away, leaving a legion of fans heartbroken. What is saddest about her passing is not only that she left the writing world, but she left the world never seeing the truth behind her daughter’s murder fully resolved.
On a hot day in Albuquerque, July 16, 1989, Lois’s youngest daughter, Kaitlyn Arquette, was shot twice in the head. She died the next morning. To this day, her daughter’s death remains a mystery, with events that could have come straight out of a Duncan suspense novel. It was her daughter’s death that eventually halted the flow of her prolific young adult thrillers, publishing only two after the tragedy. She did, however, manage to find a different market for her writing, publishing three autobiographies/biographies as well as several children’s books.
Much of the mystery that surrounds Kait’s death involves Asian mafia, drug smuggling, VIP drug activities, and evidence concealment. Police claimed that the murder was a random drive-by shooting, but suspicious circumstances to the contrary have been uncovered by independent sources, which prompted suspicion that there was police cover-up.
Lois began writing about her daughter’s death, publishing a book in 1992 titled Who Killed My Daughter? which exposed conflicting crime scene reports, uninvestigated leads by police, and suspicious activity surrounding Kait’s murder. She also ran a website, which is still up and running, dedicated to helping catch her daughter’s killers and exposing the truth behind possible police corruption in Albuquerque.
Three years before her death, Duncan published her final book, One to the Wolves: On the Trail of a Killer, a sequel to Who Killed My Daughter? With a forward written by renowned true-crime author Ann Rule, the book chronicles a tale more terrifying than the family had ever initially imagined. It exposes Kait’s murder as the tip of a massive crime iceberg that endangered the entire Arquette family.
With this article, I hope to honor the memory of one of the finest young adult suspense novelists of the 20th century. And although Kait’s death was never officially resolved, perhaps bringing fresh eyes to Duncan’s autobiographies and Kait’s website will bring awareness; perhaps even one day, closure for the family.
YouTube Channel: LizzieFelix
Featured image via WBFO