“The People Who Eat Darkness” by Richard Lloyd Parry

People-Who-Eat-Darkness-417x629

This is a fascinating true crime story recounting the tragic events that befall one Lucie Blackman, a British lass, who moved to Japan and disappeared shortly thereafter in the summer 0f 2000.  Taking a job as a hostess in a Japanese nightclub to help make ends meet, she calls her friend one night to tell her she’s on a date with a client.

She is not heard from again.

Lucie Blackman

Lucie Blackman

This recount of the events that led up to her disappearance as well the aftermath are relayed by reporter Richard Lloyd Parry, who was a worked in Japan during the time of Lucie’s case, and became obsessed with it. As such, it’s a very compelling journey that isn’t so much about the crime itself but the affect it had on the people involved. The vindictiveness between her divorced parents Jane and Tim are especially compelling as Jane seems intent on burying her former husband every chance she gets and seems to blame him for Lucie’s disappearance. To some eye-witnesses it seems Tim is detached and having fun going to the nightclubs in Japan. It’s interesting because it shows just how differently people cope with grief and just because someone isn’t acting in a way society deems to be outwardly emotional, the person in question is seen as morally dubious. Anyone who has ever lost someone can tell you that it’s not an easy experience and people cope in different ways. There is no right or wrong way to process the experience. The story of the families grief helps make the reader more invested into the proceeding events and want justice for this family.

Since I was unfamiliar with this story until reading this book, the way the events unfolded became increasingly frustrating. There are so many suspects and interesting stories going on, and the Japanese police were ill-equipped to deal with such a case as this. As it becomes clear later on, Lucie’s fate could have been easily prevented had the Japanese authorities followed up on the death of another foreigner years before. A little over halfway through the book, the villain of the story, Joji Obara is revealed. The book spends the rest of it’s time analyzing him, painting him as an enigma. He’s basically a pathetic guy, a Korean who had plastic surgery and a name change to fit in with Japanese because Koreans were viewed as second class citizens. He was a friendless eccentric who got his jollies off of drugging and raping gaijin hostesses. He’d also video tape the proceeding and kept a diary of the events that spanned over 30 years.   When Joji is finally convicted 10 years later, there is no real sense of justice, but there is one of closure.

I’m not one whose big into true crime novels but I did enjoy reading this book. The family drama and the international customs that constantly colliding, that pulled and tugged the case along over it’s sordid ten year period of time drives the story along at a fairly brisk pace. If you like compelling drama and are interested in the more sordid side of Japanese culture, this is a great book for you to read. Joji Obara is like a Takashi Miike character, but real; and that makes it all the more terrifying.

Joji Obara

Joji Obara

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