People Who Eat Darkness: Love Grief and a Journey into Japan’s Shadows, by Richard Lloyd Parry

Article published on May 1, 2012.

People Who Eat Darkness offers a compelling, compulsive and fascinating insight into a mystifying and horrific crime which caught the attention of the world. Richard Lloyd Parry investigates the disappearance of Lucie Blackman, a former BA stewardess who moved to Tokyo with her best friend Louise Phillips. While working as a bar hostess in the notorious district of Roppongi, Lucie went missing.

Parry offers readers a thorough and detailed account of events leading up to Lucie’s disappearance, her life before Tokyo and her personal relationships with friends and family. Through a series of lengthy interviews, Parry is able to form a picture of the young women looking for a different kind of life in a city so alien to western travellers. We also learn about the alleged failures of the Japanese police, the nature of hostess work and the somewhat confusing personality of the man accused of the crime.

Throughout the book, Parry keeps us waiting to find out more. The way a fictional crime novel holds readers in suspense; this reportage-style novel does equally well. By immersing himself in the story, travelling across four continents in the search for information, working as an undercover barman in Roppongi and spending years following the court proceedings, Parry reveals the astonishing truth surrounding Lucie’s final moments as well as a fascinating insight into Japanese culture.

What initially attracted me to this story was the rare glimpse of a darker side to Japan, a culture so often misinterpreted and judged by western media. Lucie Blackman’s tragic death caught the world’s attention not just because of its horrific nature, but because it took place in a city with such a low crime rate and a city with a police department that are possibly too inexperienced and unqualified to deal with such a crime.

I appreciated the fact that the book was not a fictional account of the story, but instead a thoroughly researched piece of reportage. Parry did not take sides and gave all parties an opportunity to offer their version of events. Particularly when it came to the Blackman family relationships and even the man accused. Parry also shows a rare trait for not passing judgement regarding the Blackman family, the Japanese police department or the court proceedings. Although contradictory to some opinions of this book, I found Parry to be nothing but objective throughout; even to the point of admitting that there is no way anyone can know how they would react in similar circumstances.

I would recommend this novel to anyone wishing to discover more about Lucie’s disappearance, the events of the trial and the man accused of her death. Although a tragedy, Lucie Blackman’s death has some meaning in that she brought the accused to the world’s attention and importantly highlighted the dangers of the girl’s lifestyle choice whilst in Tokyo.

It is an incredibly well-researched, detailed and honest attempt to account for an awful crime and offers a remarkable insight into Japanese culture and their legal system.

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