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Sample Book Ideas for Literature-Based Reading Enthusiasts

From the 1995 edition of:
The Handbook for the Young Reader's Choice Award
sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Library Association.

for more information contact
Gale Sherman:
Bette Ammon:

More Sample Book Ideas
The 1995 Young Reader's Choice Award Winner (Grade 9-12):
Who Killed My Daughter? The True Story of a Mother's Search for her Daughter's Murderer
by Lois Duncan

PUBLICATION DETAILS: Cloth: 304 pages. 1992. $20 (ISBN 0-385-30781-0). Delacorte. Paper: $5.99 (ISBN 0-440-21342-8). Dell.
GENRES: Non-fiction, mystery
THEMES: Murder, love, determination, investigations, parents, psychic readings, psychics, parapsychology, grieving, police, families, friendship, drugs, private investigators, reincarnation, gangs, insurance fraud, money, legal system, journalism-investigative, FBI
READABILITY: Upper seventh grade
INTEREST LEVEL: Eighth grade and up


"They say that truth is stranger than fiction. Well, Duncan is a successful YA writer who has many works of fiction under her belt, some dealing with occult topics such as ESP. But nothing she has written is stranger than this true story... Like Duncan's books for younger readers, this account is a page-turner, but it's very different from many of the true-crime books that appear with depressing regularity. For one thing, Duncan's personal involvement makes the telling much more intense, the grief more cutting, but it is the story's mystical aspects that are its obvious source of fascination... Duncan's hope is that someone who reads the book may hold the missing pieces. She can be confident of one thing: this book will have a great many readers." Booklist. 88(16):1482 April 15, 1992. Ilene Cooper.

"Reading like the suspense mysteries that have made her famous, Duncan's account of her daughter's murder in New Mexico in 1989 is horrifying and at the same time thought provoking...This book will find readers of all ages, and should be a part of all collections serving young adults. All of the elements of a suspenseful mystery are here--intrigue, turns and twists at every corner, cover-ups, and page-turning action; the sobering fact is that, this time, they're true." School Library Journal. 38(8):190 August 1992. Barbara Lynn. ("Adult Books for Young Adults" )

"While the strength and tenacity of Duncan is admirable, the story is confusing and muddled with many actual transcripts from psychics, detailed telephone conversations, and other correspondence. Understandably, there are many loose ends that are left hanging: the murder is yet unsolved. However, the reader tends to get lost in the myriad of minutia presented here. Who Killed My Daughter? undoubtedly helped Lois Duncan and her family to put this murder in perspective and to organize much of the confusing evidence surrounding this crime, and the reader who can follow this twisting trail will find an interesting story. For true-crime collections." Voice of Youth Advocates. 15(5):304 December 1992. Mary Jane Santos. (#3-quality, #3-popularity).



Lois Duncan has been writing suspense novels for young adults since 1967. She has received numerous awards from the American Library Association and children's choice awards from many state and regional organizations. Duncan knew as a child that she would be a writer (she also knew she would have five children). She began writing magazine stories as a teenager and later returned to magazine writing to support her family. Her young adult novels frequently featured supernatural events and mysterious happenings. Strangely enough, many incidents written about in Duncan's earlier novels have come to pass in her real life. Her book Don't Look Behind You (Delacorte, 1989) featured a teenage girl named April who was fashioned after one of Duncan's own daughters, Kaitlyn. In the book April was chased by a hitman in a Camaro. Shortly after the book was published, Kaitlyn was shot to death by a hitman in a Camaro. Who Killed My Daughter? is an attempt by Duncan to organize the information surrounding her daughter's murder as well as an effort to attract readers who might have further information about the case. Duncan is presently at work on two books to be published in 1995.


The combination of grief, psychic readings, and a mother's determination drive young adult author Lois Duncan to make sense of her daughter's murder. Using psychic readings, police transcripts, taped telephone conversations, photographs, and other evidence, Duncan creates an investigative file in an effort to solve the mystery, and understand her daughter's death and why the police seem unable to solve the crime.


Popular young adult mystery author Lois Duncan will need no introduction to many teen readers. Present Who Killed my Daughter? as the only true mystery written by Duncan who continues to look for her daughter's killer.


In the Author's Note, Lois Duncan tells us how it all began.
Our teenage daughter Kaitlyn was chased down and shot to death while driving home from a girlfriend's house on a peaceful Sunday evening. Police dubbed the shooting "random." "You're going to have to accept the fact that the reason Kait died was because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time," they told us. But to our family the circumstances didn't add up to "random," especially after we made the shocking discovery that Kait had been keeping some very dangerous secrets from us. (beginning, hardback edition)
Lois Duncan wonders Who Killed My Daughter? So will you.


(Prop: Duplicate the poster featured on page 82). Post this as if you were looking for information. Read aloud.

Printing and distributing this was just one of the steps that Lois Duncan took in an attempt to solve the mystery of her daughter's murder. Read more about it in Who Killed My Daughter?


As Lois Duncan writes the true story of her daughter's murder and the investigation afterwards, she becomes amazed to realize that many of the real life events surrounding her daughter's death had been written about earlier in her own mystery novels. After several phone conversations, Duncan is about to meet the woman who has helped her discover clues to the murder through psychic readings.
The moment I saw Betty Muench, I experienced a bizarre sense of recognition. It wasn't that I had met her before, I had created her; she was physically identical to the psychic detective, Anne Summers, in my novel The Third Eye.... I had written that...five years ago. Now an Anne Summers look-alike greeted me at the door, dressed in slacks and a pullover sweater, and I had the crazy feeling I had scripted the story of my own future. (page 65-66, hardback edition)
Will Lois Duncan and Betty Muench discover Who Killed My Daughter?


Current Events/Insurance Scams:

Evidence points to Kait's involvement with a gang who staged fake accidents in order to defraud insurance companies. Other types of insurance fraud include medical and health, life, property, and so on. Interested students can do further research on this topic. Consult books like Claims, Costs & Crimes: How Insurance Fraud Artists Steal Billions by Lee S. Cole (Lee Books, 1990), and related journal articles located through Reader's Guide to Periodic Literature.

Evidence Duncan gathered indicates that two gangs of immigrants were involved in her daughter's death. More information on gang violence, particularly where immigrants are concerned can be found in articles like "From Killing Fields to Mean Streets: The Street-Gang Virus is Now Infecting Cambodian Refugees" by James Willwerth, Time Magazine (138):103+

Government/Legal System:

One of the people who helped Lois Duncan with her investigation was a woman in charge of the New Mexico Crime Victim's Alliance. There are victim's rights laws and organizations which help to protect and assist victims and their families to counterbalance the rights of the alleged criminals. Investigate these laws, rights, and organizations. Refer to The Crime Victim's Book by Morton Bard (Brunner, 1986), To Be a Victim: Encounters with Crime and Injustice (Plenum Press), The Rights of Crime Victims by James H. Stark (Bantam, 1985), The Crime Victim's Handbook: Your Rights and Role in the Criminal Justice System by David Austern (Penguin Books, 1987), and Victimization and Survivor Services: A Guide to Victim Assistance by Arlene Bowers Andrews (Springer, 1992).

Health/Organ Donors:

Because Kaitlyn had decided to be an organ donor, her organs were harvested shortly after her death. Her family was relieved not to have to make that decision because of Kait's foresight and desire to help others. Many lives have been saved by organ donations but some people are reluctant to participate because of a lack of knowledge, religious myths and superstition, fear of being declared dead prematurely, and a lack of communication with medical personnel.

Students interested in either becoming a donor or wishing further information about the harvesting procedure can consult Prescription--Medicide: The Goodness of Planned Death by Jack Kevorkian (Prometheus, 1991) and Donor: How One Girl's Death Gave Life to Others by John Pekkanen (Little, 1986).

Psychic Phenomena/Book Collection:

Lois Duncan lists numerous resources she read to help her understand the psychic side of the investigation of her daughter's death. Obtain from your school or public library (or by utilizing interlibrary loan services) the following titles mentioned by Duncan: Many Lives, Many Masters by Dr. Brian L. Weiss; The Theda Journal (Psychical Research Foundation), Dr. Kenneth Ring's Life at Death (Coward, 1980) and Heading Toward Omega (Morrow, 1984); Life after Life (Guideposts, 197-); Reflections on Life After Life (Hall, 1978), and The Light Beyond (Bantam, 1988) by Dr. Raymond A. Moody, Jr.; Other Lives, Other Selves (Doubleday, 1987) by Dr. Roger Woolger, Full Circle: the Near-Death Experiences and Beyond by Barbara Harris (Pocket Books, 1990); and The Near-Death Experience: Problems, Prospects, Perspectives edited by Drs. Bruce Greyson and Charles Flynn (Thomas, 1984). Duncan was also intrigued by "Robert A. Monroe's experiences with astral projection; and by Jane Roberts's dialogue with a spirit guide," and books by Alice A. Bailey.

Other books dealing with these subjects include Psychic Phenomena: New Principles, Techniques, and Applications by Joe H. Slate (McFarland, 1988), Psychic Power by Charles W. Cosimano (Llewellyn Publications, 1989), Psychic Sense: Training and Developing Psychic Sensitivity by Mary Swainson (Llewellyn, 1990), and The Psychics (Time-Life, 1992).

Books dealing specifically with the use of psychic investigators in criminal cases are The Psychic Detectives: The Story of Psychometry and Paranormal Crime Detection by Colin Wilson (Berkley, 1987), Crime and the Psychic World by Fred Archer (Morrow, 1969), Psychic Sleuths: How Psychic Information is Used to Solve Crimes by Anita Larsen (New Discovery, 1994), The Blue Sense: Psychic Detectives and Crime by Arthur Lyons (Mysterious Press, 1991), and Casebook of a Psychic Detective by Dixie Yeterian (Stein and Day, 1982).

UPDATE, 1996

[Lois Duncan's family has now set up a website, Who Killed Kait Arquette? that includes update bulletins, and a plea for further information.

The Lois Duncan Home Page also includes information about the author.]

--David Brown



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