If you went near a British tabloid in the fall of 2000, chances are you followed the disappearance of Lucie Blackman with curiosity. Richard Lloyd Parry, Tokyo bureau chief for The Times (London), covered the mystery as it unfolded, following each scrap of hope, disappointment and depravity with bated breath. His new book, People Who Eat Darkness, is the fascinating culmination of a decade of research, as well as a probing look into the depths of evil.
Parry begins with a cursory explanation of the case: Insecure, blonde 21-year-old Lucie Blackman disappears from the streets of Tokyo in the summer of 2000. Her dismembered remains are found buried in a seaside cave the following winter. Other writers might have opted to leave her survival a mystery, and in refusing to do so, Parry makes it clear that his book is not your typical true-crime thriller.
It’s immediately clear that Lucie’s fate was in some way tied to her job as a Roppongi district “hostess,” chatting up lonely businessmen in dark bars. Lucie’s father and sister arrive on the scene, organizing news conferences and soliciting support from Tony Blair. But the Japanese investigation is frustratingly inept.
Parry masterfully guides readers through a maze of red herrings and sinister subplots (think charlatan PIs and hidden sex dungeons). Eventually, the police find the probable killer—a man with a history of abducting and raping hostesses. But even this revelation yields little resolution, as the killer staunchly refuses to confess his crime.
It would be wrong to call this book “enjoyable.” But it is both utterly engrossing and brilliantly crafted—a glimpse into the heart of darkness we hope never to know first-hand.