Monday, June 4, 2012

People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry


I don't usually read books that are reportages of true crime events. Of course, I've read the classic In Cold Blood by Truman Capote which was excellent. But generally this genre is usually melodramatic and badly written. Author Chris Cleave said that The People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry is the "In Cold Blood for our times." High praise indeed for the author and after reading the book, I couldn't agree with Cleave more. The People Who Eat Darkness: the True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo--and the Evil That Swallowed Her Up was a very well-written page-turner but a harrowing and chilling read as well. There were times while reading that I literally shivered and had to stop and take a break.

I had vaguely heard of Lucie Blackman, the 21-year-old former British Airways stewardess turned hostess, who disappeared in Tokyo in the year 2000. I had no idea of her fate or what transpired after. It was definitely a plus not knowing any of the details because I couldn't wait to find out what would happen next. Parry's non-fiction narrative reads like the best fictionalized crime novels but this is all true. British journalist Richard Lloyd Parry, was living and working in Japan at the time and covered most of the investigation and the trial that followed.

In May 2000, the tall and blond Lucie suddenly decided to move to Japan with her friend Louise to be a hostess and thus pay off her mounting debts. A hostess shouldn't be confused with a prostitute. A hostess entertains mainly by conversing with clients and keeping them company in the club whilst making them spend more and more on drinks. The hostesses are also encouraged to go on dates or to have dinner with their clients and thus earn 'bonuses.' Lucy was on such a date with an unknown man when she disappeared. At first there were no leads except for a mysterious phone call to Louise the day after the disappearance.

What follows is everyone's worst nightmare. The parents are contacted and Lucie's father and sister make several trips to Japan, facing the media and working with the police to try to find any clues to her whereabouts. Parry does an excellent job of presenting the facts and the emotions of those involved working from extensive interviews with Lucie's family, friends, co-workers, clients and the police. There are also passages from emails from Lucie and excerpts from her diary. Parry also writes extensively about the Japanese nightlife, the history of Japanese and Korean relations and the police procedures and judicial system in Japan which is completely different from the west. I'm surprised to realize I actually learned a lot about the Japan today just by reading this book. Plus the book was completely engrossing. It was a fascinating  and intense read and even if you don't like this sort of thing I highly recommend it if you enjoy reading crime or mystery novels.

I didn't mean to read this for the Japanese Literature Challenge 6 hosted by Dolce Bellezza since this is non-fiction, however Bellezza approved it (see her comment below). Do check out the site for the Japanese Literature Challenge 6 for more reviews from other bloggers.

4 comments:

  1. Strictly speakIng, this book would not count as a read for the JLC 6 because it's not written by a Japanese author. But, I'm always one for bending the rules especially as you said you learned so much about Japan and the setting is in Tokyo. I love crime/thrillers/mystery and this book sounds fascinating!

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    1. Thanks Bellezza! I've just added it on to the Japanese Literature Challenge 6 website. Yes, it was fascinating but also quite haunting.

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  2. This sounds an interesting read, was aware of the news story of Lucie Blackman, but obviously this goes into a lot of the background that goes unreported.

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  3. I've been wanting to read this book. Will add it to my list of reads towards Bellezza's Japanese challenge

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