Monday, October 24, 2022

Spotlight of A Lovely Girl by Deborah Holt Larkin


The Tragedy of Olga Duncan and the Trial of One of California’s Most Notorious Killers goes back in time to the year 1958.
Our author was ten, and the daughter of the lead reporter on the Olga Duncan case. 
Olga Duncan, a young pregnant woman whose mother-in-law despised her, worked as a nurse, was a loving wife, and had a bright future ahead. 
However, her mother-in-law, Elizabeth Duncan, had other plans. 
This true crime classic alters the quintessential 1950s suburbs of Santa Barbara, California, and transforms it into a crime scene that ultimately rocked the locals and destroyed one young woman’s life.



October 4, 2022



"In writing about what proved to be the most memorable and formative years of her life, Larkin portrays her Scout-Atticus Finch love for her father and for justice in general. The book honors Olga and her community and shows the impact that horrific crime can have on all those who bear witness." –Booklist

“Readers will be drawn to Larkin’s first-person narrative of the events as well as her reconstruction of this tragic true-crime story.”–Library Journal 

“This page-turner is not to be missed.”Publishers Weekly
“In this excellent debut, educator Larkin revisits the case of Elizabeth Duncan….The author’s father was the lead reporter covering the trial, and this account is also a loving tribute to him.   Larkin writes beautifully about her own coming-of-age, sibling rivalry, and pet bird, intermingled with the details of the horrific case.  This page-turner is not to be missed.”–Publishers Weekly


Deborah Larkin was only ten years old when the quiet calm of her California suburb was shattered.
Thirty miles north, on a quiet November night in Santa Barbara, a pregnant nurse named Olga Duncan disappeared from her apartment.  
The mystery deepened when it is discovered that Olga’s mother in-law—a deeply manipulative and deceptive woman—had been doing everything in her power to separate Olga and her son, Frank, prior to Olga’s disappearance.  


From a forged annulment to multiple attempts to hire people to “get rid” of Olga, to a faked excoriation case, Elizabeth seemed psychopathically attached to her son, yet she denied having anything to do with Olga’s disappearance. 


But when Olga’s brutally beaten body is found in a shallow grave, apparently buried alive, a young DA makes it his mission to see that Elizabeth Duncan is brought to justice.  
Adding a wrinkle to his efforts is the fact that Frank—himself a defense attorney—maintained his mother’s innocence to the end.  


How does a young girl process such a crime along with the fear and disbelief that rocked an entire community?  
Decades later, Larkin is determined to revisit the case and bring the story of Olga herself to light.  Long overshadowed by the sensationalism and scandal of Elizabeth and Frank, A Lovely Girl seeks to reveal Olga as a woman in full.  
Someone who was more than the twisted family that would ultimately ensnare her. 


As we follow the heart-pounding drama of the case through Larkin's young eyes—her father was the court reporter—A Lovely Girl is by turns page-turning yet poignant, and makes the reader reexamine how we handle fear, how we regard mental illness, and how we understand family as we carve our own path in a dangerous world.




Deborah Larkin holds a bachelor’s degree in American History and Literature from the University of California at Davis, and she studied creative writing at the University of California at San Diego. 

She has a master’s degree in the Education of Exceptional Children from San Francisco State University. 

She has spent more than three decades teaching students with special needs before becoming an elementary school principal.


One of Deborah’s first jobs in education was teaching special education at a small rural elementary school located in the beautiful historic gold mining town of Julian, California. 

At the time teaching jobs were scarce, and she thought that she could make the sixty-three-mile commute from Ocean Beach apartment for a year until she found something closer to home. 

But when the year was up, Deborah and her husband Tom moved nearer the school and the “temporary” job turned into a thirty-two-year career. 

She loved the mountain-top school, the students, the other teachers, and the community. 

She became principal for the final fifteen years of her career and Julian Elementary was recognized as a California Distinguished School.  

It was her dream job!


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