BAD TITLE! This is a really good book but that title! It was apparently borrowed from the title of a Japanese book, ‘Yami o guu hitobito’, which translates as ‘People Who Eat Darkness’. In Japanese, “eating darkness” means flirting with the dark side.” (From Psychology Today review: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/creating-in-flow/201206/how-rapistmurderer-nearly-got-away-it
(And it’s paired in some cases with a cover picture in equally poor taste. (I didn’t use the one from the Audible site.) I found nothing in the narrative like what is intimated by the title. Absurd hype in my opinion and I almost didn’t buy it.
Perry’s book is probably best for those readers who enjoy the better books in the True Crime genre. The most interesting thing for me were the insights into the Japanese police procedural and legal system. It’s quite different in some ways from the US or UK systems. The thing which brings it to our attention is that it was a British citizen who was murdered in Tokyo.
In May of the year 2000, the tall and strikingly beautiful blonde, 21-year old Lucie Blackman of Kent, England, and her friend Louise Phillips, went to Tokyo to earn some money. Only Louise returned – Lucie was last heard from in July of that same year.
She worked as a hostess at a bar which entailed pouring drinks, lighting cigarettes and chatting with the male customers. There was no sex allowed, but she, like the other bar-girls, did go out on their off hours with some customers , preferably rich Japanese men who were attracted to good looking young European girls.
People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished From the Streets of Tokyo
by Richard Lloyd Parry
2012 / 454 pages
read by Simon Vance – 13h 8m
rating: 9 / – True Crime
I don’t know but I have a little fasciation with True Crime books – the ones I like most are based on police or family interviews with lots of police procedural or psychological information. I don’t really care for the gruesome details, but some of that usually comes along with it.
This book is different in that it follows the activities of the friends and family when the police don’t seem interested. And the second half of the book is the prosecution of the man arrested, standard for true crime novels have this if the suspect lives to trial. But one of the elements which makes this story unusual is the lack of police involvement and the difficulties Lucy’s father seemed to create. (But this slant may be because Japanese law enforcement was less willing to talk to Parry.)
Lucie’s friends and family were initially traumatized, but they swung into action anyway, flying to Japan and speaking to police, hiring detectives, putting up signs and interviewing possible witnesses themselves. This part gets complicated because instead of trauma bringing people together, Lucie’s parents had been divorced for many years and were still quite bitter and that played out on the world stage with Tim Blackman seeming to want the spotlight.
And of course they came across a con artists who wanted to help in exchange for quite a lot of money as well as practitioners of telepathy and so on. And Tim Blachman himself offered quite a lot of reward money, to no avail.
The cause seemed hopeless. The family and friends back in England were anguished between mourning and hope but they and the police as well as several UK leaders (even Tony Blair) continued to follow leads and put pressure on leaders as they could.
Meanwhile, the Japanese police seemed generally uncooperative, it took awhile for them in their slow, deliberate and methodical way, to actually make much progress. But the Japanese legal system functions differently – when enough evidence is gathered and after intense interrogations are held, the suspect is expected to plead guilty. If that doesn’t happen then there is a very long legal process which is geared toward breaking him/her down and in this way if a case actually does get to court, there is so much evidence it rarely ends with an acquittal. The system and culture are geared toward the accused being guilty and admitting it at some pont.
That usually works well when the criminal is standard Japanese citizen, but maybe not so well in the case of people Zainichi – non-Japanese Korean immigrants like Joji Obara. . Or, Obara, could have been a psychopath/sociopath – who knows. The case went to trial and … (no spoilers).
Parry is rather hard on the police and legal systems, but he loves the Japanese people. He’s also, maybe, a bit hard on Lucie’s father while at the same time providing justification and a nonjudgemental conclusion. Who knows what a parent would do?
RIchard Lloyd Parry, the author, is an award-winning journalist who was in Japan as a British newspaper correspondent at the time of Lucie’s disappearance. He followed the case closely at the time and up until its conclusion – deeply involved emotionally.
It’s nicely organized between background material and it’s well written with good tension and loads of information – only a few unnecessary (to me) digressions. It is a long book.
Simon Vance gives his standard brilliant performance. Parry’s newest book, “Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan’s Disaster Zone” is now on my wish list.