Richard Lloyd Parry's true crime book, People Who Eat Darkness: The Fate of Lucie Blackman, has many elements that peaked my interest.
First, I love true crime stories. I had never heard of the Blackman case, which made it an even more interesting read. It's actually surprising, since the case seemed to have been big international news and it's quite a horrific story.
Second, I love stories set in foreign countries, especially ones that deal with cultural differences. This story, centers around English Born Lucie Blackman, who in her early twenties moved to Japan to work as a hostess in the nightclubs of Roppongi. She disappeared and many months later, her dismembered body was found in a cave on a beach. A man named Joji Obara was arrested and it led to a rather unusual trial by Japanese standards.
Third, I purchased a Kindle edition of this book to take with me on my first trip to England. It was a bit of themed travel reading. One of our unplanned/last minute excursions on the trip was to the Isle of Wight. The Isle of Wight happens to have been where Lucie Blackman's father lived during the trial and was featured fairly prominently in the book. I love that I was able to visit the Isle and have it in my frame of reference.
The events of Lucie Blackman's death are horrific, creepy and bizarre. I found it to be completely fascinating and the book a compelling read. Although, I would not recommend this book for the easily squeamish or those that cannot handle graphic details, both regarding the murder and the sex industry. The book goes deep into the dark side of Japan in exploring the various sex clubs and the world of hostessing. It comprises approximately a third of the book.
Equally fascinating is the last portion of the book, which explores the Japanese justice system, both through the police investigation and the subsequent trial. It's very different than the Western judicial system and is heavily influenced by the Japanese culture's ideas of honor and shame.
The accused, Joji Obara is a very bizarre and mysterious man. Parry spent a lot of time researching Obara as he attempted to piece together Obara's life and motives. Beyond being strange, Obara was very intelligent and wily when perpetrating his crimes. However, he also stood out in a culture that values the ability to blend in. His strange behavior and defiant attitude made him appear cocky and aggressive towards journalist, families of the victims and even his own defense team. The book could have just been a character study on Ibara, as it contained a wealth of interesting information.
My only complaint about Parry's book, was it needed tighter editing. In parts, the information felt repetitive. It dragged and occasionally seemed unfocused.
I felt this especially to be true towards the end of the book, when Parry wrote about his own bizarre communication with Obara, including threats towards the author. This would have best been stated in an afterward or maybe kept to a paragraph. I felt like it was not so pertinent to the story.
I also felt like Lucie's family dynamic was talked about to death. It was important to state the impact of her death on her relatives, but it could have been done more succinctly or kept to a particular chapter. The information felt receptive, rather than fresh.
Despite the repetition, Parry's book is a compelling read and Lucie's story is one that needs to be told.