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People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo--and the Evil That Swallowed Her Up Paperback – May 22, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Bookforum

Richard Lloyd Parry, a British journalist and an old Tokyo hand, at one point characterizes the trial as "lurid and tedious at the same time." The phrase might equally apply to the case as a whole, and indeed to the book itself.—Luc Sante


“Richard Lloyd Parry's remarkable examination of [this] crime, what it revealed about Japanese society and how it unsettled conventional notions of bereavement, elevates his book above the genre. People Who Eat Darkness is a searing exploration of evil and trauma, and how both ultimately elude understanding or resolution . . . Just as the grief of Blackman's parents is unassaugeable, Obara and his motives are unknowable. That is the darkness at the heart of this book, one Lloyd Parry conveys with extraordinary effect and emotion . . . People Who Eat Darkness is a fascinating mediation that does not pretend to offer pat answers to obscene mysteries.” ―Susan Chira, The New York Times Book Review

“Americans have an advantage in reading People Who Eat Darkness?we are less likely to know about Lucie Blackman. The blond Brit was 21 when she disappeared in Japan in 2000; the months-long search for her made headlines in both Japan and England. Unlike readers there, we have an extra level of suspense?we don't know what happened to Lucie?although we will by the middle of this masterful literary true crime story, which earns its comparisons to Truman Capote's In Cold Blood and Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song . . . Like the case of Etan Patz, the Lucie Blackman disappearance captured the public imagination. By writing about it in such culturally informed detail, Parry subtly encourages an understanding that goes past the headlines. It is a dark, unforgettable ride.” ―Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Time

“[In People Who Eat Darkness], Mr. Parry finds his voice, and it's a sturdy one. His book becomes not merely an exemplary piece of reportage but a sustained and quietly profound work of moral inquiry as well. It becomes ominous in ways that go well beyond the calculated shock value of its cover . . . Mr. Parry writes exceedingly well . . . [and] People Who Eat Darkness is surprisingly soulful, especially in its portrait of Ms. Blackman . . . He's restored her to life in this vivid book.” ―Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“People Who Eat Darkness is a factual account, but it is as compelling as any thriller. The narrative gallops along, with dramatic twists, turns and half-resolutions. Joji Obara, Lucie's abductor and apparent murderer, is every bit as brilliant and terrifying as the fictional Hannibal Lecter . . . The author's discussion of the effects of Lucie's murder on Tim and the rest of the Blackman family is intimate, sensitive and chilling . . . intelligent, compassionate.” ―Melanie Kirkpatrick, The Wall Street Journal

“One of the best books of the Year” ―The Economist, The Guardian, and New Statesman

“Parry is a sensitive, knowledgeable guide through the murky world of Japanese hostess clubs . . . A thoughtful book about an inevitably sensational subject . . . Methodically present[s] a nightmare that engulfs an entire city: the police, the shady networks of semilegal businesses whose economic livelihood is threatened by the investigation, and a riveted public whose taste for true crime stories is questioned.” ―Gregory Leon Miller, San Francisco Chronicle

“Clear-eyed, thorough reporting on the Japanese underworld . . . Parry . . . mak[es] the reader feel not like a voyeur, but a witness to this deeply human tragedy that illustrates how a single murder creates many victims and proves that the seemingly distant political past can continue to influence individual lives into the present day.” ―Elyssa East, The Boston Globe

People Who Eat Darkness is an exceptionally perceptive and nuanced look at a terrible crime, one that put nations, institutions and family members at odds, and often into bitter and toxic conflict . . . [L]ike Capote, [the author is] less interested in dishing the eerie or lurid details than he is in exploring the penumbra of the crime, the complex factors that fed into it and the unpredictable effects it had on an ever-spreading network of people.” ―Laura Miller,

“A big, ambitious true crime book in the tradition of Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song and Truman Capote's In Cold Blood.” ―Esquire

“A masterpiece of writing this surely is, but it is more than that--it is a committed, compassionate, courageous act of journalism that changes the way we think. Everyone who has ever loved someone and held that life dear should read this stunning book, and shiver.” ―Chris Cleave, author of Little Bee and Incendiary

“Extraordinary, compulsive and brilliant.” ―David Peace, author of the Red Riding quartet and the Tokyo trilogy

“An utterly compelling read.” ―Mo Hayder, autho r of Ritual and Tokyo

“Parry has a knack of tacitly cross-examining his readers . . . not implicating them exactly, but immersing them in a darkness that thickens as facts come to light . . . [He] skilfully manipulates the narrative to keep the reader in a state of awful uncertainty about what will happen next.” ―Geoff Dyer, The Observer (London)

“Compelling . . . Rich in intelligence and insight . . . This isn't just the tale of a murder case but a book that sheds light on Japan, on families, on the media, and . . . on the insidious effects of misogyny.” ―Blake Morrison, The Guardian

“A work not only of page-turning intensity but also of touching sensitivity and deep insight.” ―David Pilling, Financial Times

“A classic of the rather compromised true crime genre, a rigorous, meticulous and intelligent work of long form journalism . . . Lloyd Parry deals with the consequences for families, friends and lovers--unassuageable pain, guilt and recrimination--with most unusual thoroughness and scrupulous empathy.” ―Peter Alford, Weekend Australian

“Thoroughly researched [and] very well written, appalling and absolutely enthralling.” ―Patrick Skene Catling, The Irish Times

“The most compelling book I read this year . . . Written with a novelist's eye for insight and narrative, it's a cracking read that tracks the haphazard investigation, the eventual arrest of the truly bizarre killer and the heartbreaking plight of the Blackman family members left to cope with the dreadful consequences.” ―Sydney Morning Herald


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 454 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux; Reprint edition (May 22, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374230595
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374230593
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.3 x 7.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (295 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #74,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard Lloyd Parry is a British author and award-winning foreign correspondent. He was born in northern England in 1969, and educated at Oxford University. Since 1995 has lived in Tokyo, where he is the Asia Editor of 'The Times' of London. He has reported from twenty-seven countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo and Macedonia. In recent years, he has covered the war in Iraq, the crisis in North Korea, political turmoil in Thailand and Burma, and the tsunami and nuclear disasters in Japan. In 2005, he was named Foreign Correspondent of the Year in the UK's What The Papers Say Awards.

He has also contributed to the London Review of Books, Granta and the New York Times Magazine. His books include In the Time of Madness (Grove 2005), an account of the violence in Indonesia in the late 1990s. People Who Eat Darkness: The Fate of Lucie Blackman, published in February 2011, was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

119 of 122 people found the following review helpful By Fiona Helmsley on June 11, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book is by far, the best book I've read this year. I can't stop talking about- it was so fascinating, so intriguing, I didn't want it to end, which seems like a somewhat unsavory statement to make about a book thats focus is a young woman's disappearance and death, but this book is so much more. It's a study of culture, Eastern vs. Western, it's a story about a family, about how people react to death, view sex, and the effects of unchecked mental illness and loneliness. I read it this weekend and felt like I was plugged into something-and now that I've finished it, I feel stripped and a bit depressed, knowing that books as good as this one only come around once and awhile.
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111 of 115 people found the following review helpful By Joanna D. #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 26, 2012
Format: Paperback
How could it happen, in one of the "safest" cities in the world, Tokyo, that 21 year old former flight attendant could end up dismembered and disposed of in plastic bags? And this is not a tale of the early 1900's--it happened right after the turn of the new millenium.

The author takes us on a tour of the underbelly of Tokyo in the Roppongi district, where businessmen hook up with club "hostesses" for drinking and dates (not necessarily sex, says the author.) And this is an area where foreigners and Japanese mix, foreign girls as exotic hostesses to Japanese men, or foreign businessmen out on an adventure, off the leash in Asia. Lucie Blackman ends up in Roppongi, to work off large debts she incurred, probably having heard that pretty foreign women, especially blondes, can make big money in Tokyo from their exotic "Western" appeal.

However, the Japanese police seem to miss a lot of criminal activity that is happening here and in areas like Roppongi. So how can it happen for example, that an healthy, young Australian woman, Carita Ridgeway, dies of liver failure after being dropped off in a state of unconsciousness by some unknown guy at a hospital? She was drugged with chloroform, an easy way to adminster a "mickey" but one that can cause the liver to shut down. And how can it happen that Lucie Blackman also disappears?

The story follows each shocking trail including a foray into the Japanese justice system, which for a law-abiding land with severe penalties for criminal acts, seems astonishingly unable to deal with what is clearly a predator of women, if not a serial killer. If you like real crime stories, this one will really set your hair on edge.
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103 of 108 people found the following review helpful By Jake Adelstein on June 6, 2012
Format: Paperback
The dark side of the land of the rising sun is pitch black. I differ slightly with the author on how well or how enthusiastically the police investigated the case, once they sensed that things had gone wrong. However, it is clear that Mr. Obara, the anti-hero of this moving and incredibly researched book, was allowed to harm many women for a very long time and that he exploited flaws in the Japanese justice system brilliantly. There is no happy ending to this story and no clear lesson to be learned. It is a haunting meditation on family ties, conflict, grief, regret, and the nature of evil that transcends cultural boundaries.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Liviania VINE VOICE on June 10, 2012
Format: Paperback
So what sparked my interest in PEOPLE WHO EAT DARKNESS, the true crime account of the disappearance of British Lucie Blackman in Tokyo during the summer of 2000? The back blurb promised cultural and psychological insight on the level of Truman Capote's IN COLD BLOOD. It touched on one of my academic interests, East Asian culture, and one of my favorite books.

The comparison to IN COLD BLOOD on the back does PEOPLE WHO EAT DARKNESS no favors. Richard Lloyd Parry's lengthy and detailed account of the Lucie case lacks the transgressive power of Capote's masterpiece. Capote offered no pretense of objectivity, instead showing great feeling for a man who committed a brutal multiple murder. Parry's book is drier and attempts for an objective tone, but there is never a sense that he sees shades of grey in Joji Obara. There is no strange, compelling beauty. There is only a sad, friendless, bizarre man who committed at least nine and possibly hundreds of rapes over the course of thirty years, resulting in at least two deaths.

The transgressive, enigmatic figure in PEOPLE WHO EAT DARKNESS is Lucie's father, Tim. He skillfully used the media to create enough interest in her case to force the Japanese police to treat her disappearance seriously, but took a payment from her killer to sign a document casting doubt on evidence from the police.

Parry does do a good job of creating a complex portrait of Japan. He cogently explains the water trade, the jobs perceived as forms of sex work, and the history of the Zainichi, Japanese of Korean descent. They're difficult subjects to address in a chapter or less, but Parry manages to do it in a way that should express them accurately to an unfamiliar audience.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Author/Reviewer Geri Ahearn TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 11, 2012
Format: Paperback
Richard Lloyd Parry delivers a true crime story that is disturbing, chilling, and compelling. It was in 2000 when a young woman stepped out into the streets of Tokyo, never to be seen again. The remains of her body was found that winter in a seaside cave. A Massive search was enforced, along with an investigation, and the man accused was identified. The judge described the murderer a man of evil. The author takes the reader behind the scenes from searching for a Missing woman to all the facts and findings, and through the trial. Lucie Blackman lost her life at age twenty-one, was justice served? Could anything have been better to not only prevent such crimes, but to enforce new laws within the Japanese justice system? Richard Lloyd Parry introduces us also to a different culture, and the trials-and-tribulations of different laws. I highly recommend this intriguing book to all thriller lovers. A thought-provoking read from beginning to end that will send chills up your spine!
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