Lucie Blackman, 21, a tall blonde living in Tokyo during the summer of 2000 disappears with little to go on. By the subsequent winter, her body is found buried at the beach, cut into pieces.
The name People Who Eat Darkness is taken as a direct translation from the Japanese title Yami o guu hitobito.
I’m not one for non-fiction, let alone true-crime books, so I’m still not entirely sure what caught my eye here. I knew nothing about either the killer or the victim, I’ve never been to Japan and just looking at this you can tell it’s going to be a big read.
However, I’ve had a fascination with serial killers for a while now. I love reading serial profiles and watching documentaries that try to explain why they do what they do; ultimately kill. I think it’s the whole psychology of ‘how can one human being do such a thing as kill another?’
These points add to the surprising fact that I liked this book a lot.
Centred around Lucie’s disappearance People Who Eat Darkness doesn’t pull any punches. Richard Lloyd Parry holds nothing back in his journalistic analysis, especially when it comes to weighing up Lucie’s bitterly divorced parents, Jane and Tim.
When Tim, along with Lucie’s sister, heads to Japan to hold an emotional press conference, he comes across less like a grieving father, and more like a sinister husband, a la Nick in Gone Girl.
Hosting The Killer
Lucie quickly fell into the job of being a ‘hostess’ at one of Roppongi’s district bars.
We tend to have negative views towards women in similar roles, making assumptions about the extras that they offer (I’m talking sex). In Japan, however, it is strictly for companionship.
A man, usually wealthy, will come into the bar and buy the company of a hostess for a certain amount of time. It’s her job to get him to buy drinks for both her and himself, thus creating more business for the bar.
Outside of work, they’re expected to casually date these men to build a relationship with them so they’ll return to the bar and spend more money. Each woman is expected to make a certain quota of money for the bar each month.
The problem is, when you’re off your quota, as Lucie reportedly was, you can start relying on these situations. Going out with complete strangers on a whim can be a dangerous game.
Lucie met her killer at her bar, Casablanca, in the summer of 2000. He came in, bought her a drink and spoke basic English, much like a lot of the clientele.
He offered to take her out and buy her some fancy clothes and a mobile phone (this was 2000 remember), so how could she refuse given her current situation?
That’s when it all turned south.
The Journalistic Approach
Throughout this book, Richard Lloyd Parry displays excellent journalistic skills, digging deeper and deeper into his work. This meticulous research really shows, along with making this story standout above many similar titles.
Suspense is built up in the first portion of the book, with no indication of what has happened to Lucie, only that she still hasn’t appeared.
Later, her parent’s worst fears are confirmed when her remains are found buried in a cave on one of Tokyo’s small beaches; her body cut into pieces – including her head being encased in concrete.
Japanese laws are looked at in detail and the book does raise some interesting points about how their judicial system works. Or in this case, doesn’t.
At one point in the trial, Lloyd Parry claims to have been sent an envelope which contained photographs of him, which were obviously taken covertly.
There was also a document encouraging Japanese ultra-nationalist to deal with him. These moments help to draw you into the story more knowing that Lloyd Parry himself played a part in the proceeding trial, all be it, a small and contentious one.
On the downside, People Who Eat Darkness does suffer from the common ‘plodding’ notion. All of the evidence has been unveiled and there’s little else left to talk about.
The book is long and at times begins to drag, especially once the trial starts. From this point little moves forward in the story.
Several chapters are dedicated to Lloyd Parry going back and forth between the courts and his office. These sections could have been made more compact to help with the pacing.
Wrapping up, the book finishes on a rather sombre note. The killer is in custody, but as is the law in Japan, unless a motive or confession are given, he can’t be sentenced. These laws have since changed, but given the time of the original crime, these laws aren’t applicable here.
If you’re a fan of true-crime, then this book is for you.
Excellent writing will engage you, as well as offer profound insight into Lucie’s family and how they are each coping with their grief.
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