People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry

People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry

Lucie Blackman – tall, blonde, and twenty-one years old – stepped out into the vastness of Tokyo in the summer of 2000, and disappeared forever. The following winter, her dismembered remains were found buried in a seaside cave.The seven months in between had seen a massive search for the missing girl, involving Japanese policemen, British private detectives, Australian dowsers and Lucie’s desperate, but bitterly divided, parents. As the case unfolded, it drew the attention of prime ministers and sado-masochists, ambassadors and con-men, and reporters from across the world. Had Lucie been abducted by a religious cult, or snatched by human traffickers? Who was the mysterious man she had gone to meet? And what did her work, as a ‘hostess’ in the notorious Roppongi district of Tokyo, really involve? Richard Lloyd Parry, an award-winning foreign correspondent, has followed the case since Lucie’s disappearance. Over the course of a decade, he has travelled to four continents to interview those caught up in the story, fought off a legal attack in the Japanese courts, and worked undercover as a barman in a Roppongi strip club. He has talked exhaustively to Lucie’s friends and family and won unique access to the Japanese detectives who investigated the case. And he has delved into the mind and background of the man accused of the crime – Joji Obara, described by the judge as ‘unprecedented and extremely evil’.With the finesse of a novelist, he reveals the astonishing truth about Lucie and her fate. People Who Eat Darkness is, by turns, a non-fiction thriller, a courtroom drama and the biography of both a victim and a killer. It is the story of a young woman who fell prey to unspeakabale evil, and of a loving family torn apart by grief. And it is a fascinating insight into one of the world’s most baffling and mysterious societies, a light shone into dark corners of Japan that the rest of the world has never glimpsed before.

The Lucie Blackman case was all over the news during the summer of my A levels. I would often return home to see how the case was progressing over the news. As months pass by and the media’s interest in Lucie died down, I lost track of the story and never thought more about it until I read what happened to her in Jake Adelstein’s Tokyo Vice. Reading about her left me with many questions unanswered and got me interested again in the details of this case. This book, “People Who Eat Darkness” gives a comprehensive account on what happened to Lucie during that night of 1st July 2000.

Over the years as a reporter Parry became close with the Blackman family and Lucie’s friends and obtained an unprecedentedly detailed look into her life. We find out what it was like for Lucie to grow up in Sevenoaks and the separation that she felt when living in Tokyo as a hostess. Then he introduces us to the suspect Joji Obara, an awkward yet talented figure with a difficult upbringing. Here we learn that Lucie was merely one of the long list of victims that he had abused over the years.

This book really highlights the difference between the Japanese and Western legal system. At times you feel frustrated to find out that little progress was happening in the case because the police were waiting for a confession from the suspect. It feels absurd to read about a legal system that depend on honest criminals for its prosecution. If this happened in other countries, would the police take over 7 months to discover the body that is buried 200 yards from where the suspect lived?

The book also tells the story of the death of a loved one can and its detrimental effect on friends and family. During the entire ordeal, her family flew back and forth between UK and Japan and suffered the relentless questionings from the media and police. It was Tim Blackman’s idea to blow up the situation and attract the attention of the then Prime Minister Tony Blair. If it wasn’t for his actions, Lucie’s disappearance might have just been another case that gets swept under the carpet, leaving the killer free to abuse other victims. Despite Tim’s noble actions, we find out later that he might be in fact leveraging the goodwills of others for his own gains. On the other hand, Lucie’s siblings took the grief to their hearts and suffered much pain for it.

Richard Lloyd Parry’s writing is beautiful and he uses his meticulous research to give the readers a vivid picture of Tokyo and the events that lead to that unfortunate summer of 2000. This is a powerful yet tragic story of a girl who let her guard down to the wrong person and an in depth view of a twisted human being with no sense of remorse.