Lois Duncan (Steinmetz Arquette) Critical Essays

Introduction

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Lois Duncan (Steinmetz Arquette) 1934–

(Also wrote as Lois Kerry) American novelist, short story writer, and journalist.

Duncan's plots and characters vary, but her books always contain a good deal of suspense. In her works, Duncan has dealt with the murder of a high school teacher, witches, kidnapping, a group of sadistic feminists, and treason. Most notably, Duncan's love of suspense has found expression in her novels about the supernatural.

Her first book of this type, A Gift of Magic, relates a young girl's awakening to her extrasensory perception. Down the Dark Hall is the story of a boarding school for girls with ESP. In this Gothic mystery, Duncan spiced the plot with ghosts, an evil headmistress, and a handsome hero. Stranger with My Face is the story of Laurie and Lia, twins who were separated at birth. After a series of inexplicable events, Laurie finds out that Lia is using astral projection in an attempt to take over Laurie's body. Following several twists in the plots of her novels, Duncan consistently ensures that good triumphs over evil.

Although some critics accuse Duncan of being melodramatic, she has found an eager audience of young adults. Through her use of action, deft characterization, and other-worldly elements, Duncan weaves stories that capture the reader's attention. She has said that her primary goal is to entertain: "My own most successful books have been those that were high in entertainment value…. The most valuable thing an author can do for today's teenagers is to help them to realize that it's as much fun to read a book as to turn on the television."

(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed.; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 2; and Something about the Author, Vol. 1.)