People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo--and the Evil That Swallowed Her Upby Richard Lloyd Parry
Lucie Blackman—tall, blond, 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.
Richard Lloyd Parry, an award-winning foreign correspondent, covered Lucie's disappearance and followed the massive search for/p>
Lucie Blackman—tall, blond, 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.
Richard Lloyd Parry, an award-winning foreign correspondent, covered Lucie's disappearance and followed the massive search for her, the long investigation, and the even longer trial. Over ten years, he earned the trust of her family and friends, won unique access to the Japanese detectives and Japan's convoluted legal system, and delved deep into the mind of the man accused of the crime, Joji Obara, described by the judge as "unprecedented and extremely evil."
The result is a book at once thrilling and revelatory, "In Cold Blood for our times" (Chris Cleave, author of Incendiary and Little Bee).
The People Who Eat Darkness is one of Publishers Weekly's Top 10 Best Books of 2012
“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, Salon.com
“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, author 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
Extraordinary, compulsive and brilliant.
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People Who Eat Darkness
The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo â" and the Evil that Swallowed Her Up
By Richard Lloyd Parry
Farrar, Straus and GirouxCopyright © 2012 Richard Lloyd Parry
All rights reserved.
THE WORLD THE RIGHT WAY ROUND
Even later, when she found it difficult to see any good in her husband, Lucie's mother, Jane, always acknowledged that Tim Blackman had saved their daughter's life.
Lucie had been twenty-one months old at the time, cared for by her father and mother in the cottage they rented in a small village in Sussex. Since infancy, she had been stricken with fierce bouts of tonsillitis, which drove up her temperature and swelled her throat. Her parents sponged her with water to cool her down, but the fevers lingered, and when one had passed another would seize hold within a few weeks. One day, Tim had come home early from work to help Jane care for the needy child. That night, he was awakened by a cry from his wife, who had gone in to look at her.
By the time he entered the nursery, Jane was already running downstairs.
"Lucie was motionless at the bottom of the cot, and she was clammy," Tim said. "I picked her out and put her on the floor, and she was turning gray in front of me, just the most sickly, blacky-gray color. Quite clearly the lifeblood wasn't being pumped round her body. I didn't know what to do. I was cuddling her on the floor, and Jane had run down to phone an ambulance. Lucie was completely quiet, wasn't breathing. I tried to force open her mouth. It was tightly shut, but I forced it open with two hands and held it open with the thumb of one hand and put my fingers in and pulled her tongue forward. I didn't know whether I was doing any good or not, but I did it, and then I put her head to one side, and then I breathed into her and then pushed the air out, breathed into her and pushed it out, and she started to breathe on her own again. I was sick with anxiety and worry, and then I saw the pink coming back to her skin, and by that time the ambulance had arrived, and the ambulance blokes were rushing up the tiny, weeny stairs, these great big blokes with all this huge, noisy kit on, big beefy chaps who were as big as the cottage. And they got their stretcher out and strapped her on and carried her downstairs and put her in the back of the ambulance. And after that she was fine."
Lucie had experienced a febrile convulsion, a muscle spasm caused by fever and dehydration that had caused her to swallow her own tongue, blocking off her breathing. A few moments longer, and she would have died. "I knew at that moment that I could not only have one child," Tim said. "I knew. I'd thought about it before, when Lucie was born. But at that moment, I knew that if anything had happened to her, and we didn't have any other children, it would be an absolutely terrible disaster."
* * *
Lucie had been born on September 1, 1978. Her name was from the Latin word for "light," and even in adulthood, her mother said, she craved brightness and illumination, and was uncomfortable in the dark, switching on all the bulbs in the house and going to sleep with a lamp turned on in her room.
Jane's labor had to be induced, and it lasted sixteen hours. Lucie's head was positioned against her mother's back, a "posterior presentation" that caused her great pain during the delivery. But the eight-pound baby was healthy, and her parents experienced deep, but complicated, happiness at the birth of their first child. "I was delighted, absolutely delighted," said Jane. "But I think when you become a mother, you ... I just wanted my mother to be there, because I was so proud I'd had a baby. But she wasn't there, so it was sad as well."
Jane remembered little but sadness from her own childhood. Her adult life, too, had been marked by clusters of crushing, overwhelming loss, which had bred in her a dry, dark humor, alternately self-deprecating and indignantly defensive. She was in her late forties when I first met her, a thin, attractive woman with short dark blond hair and sharp, vigilant features. Her outfits were tidy and demure. Long, delicate lashes ringed her eyes, but the girlishness that they might have suggested was dispelled by a fierce sense of rightness and a scathing intolerance of fools and snobs. Pride and self-pity were at war within Jane. She was like a fox, a stubborn, elegant fox in a navy blue skirt and jacket.
Her father had been a manager at the Elstree film studios, and she and her younger brother and sister had grown up in the outer London suburbs, a strict and rather drab middle-class life of homework and good table manners and the annual summer holiday in a gusty English seaside resort. When Jane was twelve, the family moved to south London. Before her first morning at her new school, Jane went in to kiss her mother goodbye and found her asleep after a night of headaches and insomnia. "I felt that something awful was going to happen," Jane said. "And I said to my father, 'She's not going to die, is she?' and he said, 'Oh no, don't be silly, of course not.' And then I came home from school that day, and she'd died. She'd had a brain tumor. And from then on my father was distraught. He was broken, a broken man, and I just had to be brave. That was the end of my childhood."
Jane's mother was forty years old at the time of her death. "My grandmother looked after us during the week, and at weekends it was Daddy," she said. "I remember him just crying all the time." Fifteen months after his wife's death, he married a woman in her mid-twenties. Jane was appalled. "But he had three children, and he just couldn't function. It was terrible. The truth is that I can't remember much of my childhood. When you've had a shock, and been through a time as painful as that, your brain makes you forget."
Jane left school at fifteen. She took a secretarial course and found a job at a big advertising agency. When she was nineteen, she traveled to Mallorca with a girlfriend and stayed there for six months, cleaning cars for a living. It was before the age of mass British tourism to Spain, and the Balearic Islands were still a select and exotic destination. The famous Manchester United footballer George Best was a visitor. "I didn't meet him, but I remember seeing him in these bars, surrounded by beauties," said Jane. "But I was very sensible, I was very careful. I've got the word 'sensible' running through my body like a stick of rock. Everyone else might have been swinging but I wasn't. I was just very boring."
In Mallorca, Jane's virtue was tested by a young man, a nodding acquaintance, who appeared at her front door one day and attempted to kiss her. "I was absolutely mortified, because I hardly knew him, and it was the middle of the afternoon. He was Swedish, I think. I hadn't given him any provocation, and it made me very wary after that. I liked the sun and the sea, I liked being in the outdoors, but I can't say it was a wild time, because I'm sensible. I never slept with anyone until I slept with my husband."
* * *
She was twenty-two when she met Tim, and living with her father and stepmother in Chislehurst in the London borough of Bromley. He was the older brother of a friend, and Jane had already heard all about him. "People said to me, 'That Tim's a right one,'" she remembered. "'A right one for the women.'"
Tim had just returned from the south of France, where he had been staying with a French girlfriend. "But he started flirting with me anyway, and I gave him one of my icy stares," said Jane. "I think I was the first person in his life who hadn't fallen for him just like that, so I was a challenge. But I had no confidence, if I'm honest. I had lots of very beautiful girlfriends who had men flocking round them, but at discos I was always the custodian of the handbags. Tim couldn't understand why I hadn't fallen for him hook, line, and sinker, and I couldn't understand why anyone would fancy me, and I think that's why I ended up marrying him." The wedding was eighteen months later, on Tim's twenty-third birthday, July 17, 1976.
Tim managed a shoe shop in the nearby town of Orpington, a relic of the dwindling chain of businesses that his father had once owned across the southeast. But the shop failed, and Tim found himself claiming the dole for six months. He ended up supporting his young family with odd jobs for friends and as a freelance painter and decorator. "We were living hand to mouth," he said. "They were very tricky, very tricky times in the early 1980s, and we didn't know where the next fifty pounds was coming from. But we were in this lovely place with our baby, this Laura Ashley–style cottage, and it was a very beautiful life. I loved that time when Lucie was little."
In May 1980, less than two years after the first baby, Jane gave birth to Sophie, and, three years after that, to Rupert. Tim found a business partner and moved from decorating into property development; in 1982 the family moved a few miles north to the genteel commuter town of Sevenoaks, in Kent. Here, their period of hardship at an end, Jane was able to create for her own family the childhood she had always wanted for herself, an idyll of flowers and pretty dresses and the laughter of little children.
The house where they lived, which Jane christened Daisy Cottage, overlooked a private prep school — Granville School, or the Granville School, as it insisted on being known. It was the fulfillment of all her fantasies, a place of such self-conscious tweeness that everyone who went there remembers it with a smile. The girls, as young as three years old, wore a uniform of blue-checked dresses and gray woolly bobble hats; at the spring festival, they put rings of flowers called chaplets in their hair. The school curriculum included the study of curtsying and maypole dancing. "Our bedroom looked directly over the playground," remembered Jane. "It was so perfect — at playtime, Lucie would come and wave to me and I could wave back." It was a school out of the past, out of the pages of an illustrated children's book. "Like living in la-la land," said Jane, "not like the real world at all."
* * *
From the beginning, Lucie was a grown-up, conscientious girl with a childish earnestness that made adults smile. When Jane gave her peas to shell, she would examine each one individually, rejecting any that displayed the smallest sign of imperfection. She loved dolls and would sit alongside her mother breast-feeding a plastic baby as Jane breast-fed Sophie. "She was so meticulous and tidy and neat," said Jane. "Like me from an early age." Sophie, by contrast, was "stroppy" and prone to tantrums, which her older sister gently and skillfully defused. The two sisters shared a big old-fashioned bed, and one Easter Sunday they spent the entire day living underneath it, taking their meals there, reading their picture books, and tending to their toys.
Lucie's school exercise books suggest how successfully Jane created for her children a world of innocence and delight.
Name: Lucy Blackman
Monday 20th May
To-day Daddy is going to collect me from school and we are going to go home and I am going to get my Laura Ashley dress and it is bluey gray and it has little flowers and then I am going to in to Tescos home and wear and I am going to get Gemma a preasnt but I don't know what to get her for her birthday treat and she is having four friends that is me and Celia and Charlotte and another frend in her school and I will be the only one from Granville
friends friends friends friends
And from another exercise book:
Name: Lucy Blackman
I used a large mirror.
I looked at myself.
I saw my reflection.
I closed one eye.
I saw myself with one eye closed.
I touched my nose.
I saw myself with my right hand on my nose.
I clapped my hands.
I saw my hands clap.
I used a large mirror.
I put the mirror at the side.
I saw the world the right way round.
"Because my childhood was sad I always wanted to have a wonderful, happy family life," said Jane. "I'd put their slippers down the front of the stove so they'd be warm when they came home from school. When Rupert used to play rugby, I'd take a hot-water bottle and a flask of hot tea when I met him from school. My biggest fear was losing them. Even when they were little. I had these leather reins with a little picture of a bunny rabbit on them, these reins that I used to make Rupert wear. I'd have him on reins, and to the girls I'd say, 'You hold hands,' and in the supermarket if I lost sight of one of them I would feel ... It was the worst thing for me, loss, because of what had happened to me. That was always my biggest fear — losing. Because I'd lost my mother, I just couldn't bear the thought of ever losing the children. So I was a very protective — an overprotective — mother."
* * *
Lucie won a scholarship to Walthamstow Hall, a stalwart redbrick nineteenth-century institution founded for the daughters of Christian missionaries. She was a hard worker and might have been expected to flourish at "Wally Hall," which took pride in the number of girls it sent to university. And yet Lucie never quite fitted in there. "Walthamstow Hall was quite a posh school," said Jane. "A lot of girls on their birthday were given car keys. That was their birthday present, and that wasn't the league we were in at all." However, the darkest shadow over Lucie's teenage years was not money but illness.
At the age of twelve, she contracted mycoplasma pneumonia, a rare form of the illness, which laid her low for weeks. "She was very, very ill and no one knew what was the matter with her," said Jane. "She'd be propped up in bed on so many pillows, and I had to give her this treatment to get rid of the mucus, to pummel her back. There was a rattle when she breathed, you could hear it in her lungs." Afterwards Lucie was afflicted with a malaise that caused her legs to ache so much that she could barely walk, and put paid to two years of schoolwork. For weeks at a time she had no energy at all; the effort of descending a flight of stairs left her spent with exhaustion, and a series of doctors could give no assurances about when, or even if, her good health would return.
Jane Blackman had a strong belief in the hidden powers of the mind, and in her own gifts of prediction and intuition. She worked as a reflexologist — a masseuse and a therapist of the feet — and frequently, she said, she had found herself accurately foreseeing imminent events — the death of an elderly relative, the pregnancy of a patient before the woman was aware of it herself. "I just have feelings about things when I'm working," she said. "A voice will come into my head to tell me something and afterwards I'm right. It goes back to my sense of justice: I feel people's pain. People say I'm very empathetic, but I think if you've been through a lot yourself it gives you that ability."
It was during Lucie's long illness, her mother believed, that her daughter's own gift for supernatural perception first displayed itself.
Separately, both her parents began to notice a faint but distinctive smell in the master bedroom where Lucie was being nursed — the smell of cigars. No one in the family smoked them; Tim even called on the neighbors to confirm that the smoke was not coming through their shared wall. A few days later, Jane mentioned the strange smell to Lucie. It was a time when she was extremely weak, drifting between sleep and wakefulness, but it was still a surprise when she replied, "It's the man who sits on the end of my bed."
"What man?" asked Jane.
"In the night, there's this old man who comes and sits on the end of my bed sometimes, and he smokes cigars."
"Poof!" said Tim, telling the story later. "We all thought, 'Lucie's gone completely off her rocker.'"
Much later, after her strength had returned, Lucie visited the home of Jane's father and stepmother. She came across a photograph on a sideboard of an old man and asked who it was. Jane's own grandmother, Lucie's great-grandmother, was there that day, and the man was her husband, Hollis Etheridge, who had died years before.
"That's the man," said Lucie, "the one who came and sat at the end of my bed."
Throughout his life, he had been a smoker of cigars.
* * *
The disappearance of Lucie Blackman, the long months of uncertainty, and the discovery of her terrible fate added to the ill feeling between her parents. But it existed long before her death. The shrill, contending versions of the truth were the sound track to the last five years of Lucie's life.
Excerpted from People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry. Copyright © 2012 Richard Lloyd Parry. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Richard Lloyd Parry is the Asia editor and Tokyo bureau chief of The Times (London) and the author of In the Time of Madness.
Richard Lloyd Parry is the Asia editor and Tokyo bureau chief of The Times (London) and the author of People Who Eat Darkness and In the Time of Madness.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Exceptionally well-written true crime book. I was completely unaware of the case he describes and the author does a great job of slowly revealing the facts of the case. This author clearly has given great thought to pace and has an interesting perspective on Japanese. culture. I think the author's use of his first person perspective of the case is interesting and unusual, though I guess I would like it a bit more if he made it clear that he was talking about his subjective experience rather than having the reader assume it was just a explication of the facts. That said, it was an extremely well-researched and beautifully written book. Cheers to the author!
One of the best true crime stories I've read in years. Parry's acccess to the victum's family and his knowledge of Japanese culture make this a highly interesting read. Parry has a keen sense for story telling and the book was hard to put down. Justice was hard won and this compelling narrative moves the story through to its harrowing final verdict.
Parry did an amazing job with this true crime piece. It is very detailed, informative, and straightforward. He folds in research at just the right points in such a way that he does not forget about the one story he is reporting. Not only do you get the story of Lucie Blackman, you get multiple related cases, detailed accounts, and a deep look into the so-called "deviant" cultures that exist overseas. Wonderful job, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I haven't read a true crime book this thorough in a long time.
Unable to put this down. Super interesting and suspenseful story.
This book wasn't so much about the disappearance of Lucie B. but of the boring lives /people who were helping look for her. It was bad enough that at the very beginning of the book the reader learns what happens to her. I am half way finished with the book but can't take anymore. Do not recommend!
Thought that it was a well written book. You can tell a lot of thought and research was put in to this book. The author at times did go into far more detail in some areas than I thought necessary, but didn't spend a lot of time on those issues. I agree that at the end of the trial he did spend a lot of time on personal thoughts, but it also made me look at some of the different issues he was speaking of, in a different light. Would highly recommend.
Chilling. Editor, Author and The Times Tokyo Bureau Chief Parry invites into the story of Lucie Blackman who went to Japan in 2000 and disappeared shortly there after. A beautiful 21 year old woman who wanted something different and traveled with her best friend to Japan. As we learn about the Blackman family we may see members of our ow families but what will become chilling is the subculture of sexual behavior which goes on to include young women who could be our daughters. Along with dealing with a legal system that appears to be unmotivated and different from the Western one. As a parent I was haunted by this story as it's unforgettable.
The story is good but after the trial the book drags with the authors personal views.
This is a good read for try crime buffs. Starts out a little slow and picks up.
I love a good suspense/mystery and this true story had it all but I felt the author went off in too many directions. He knew the details of every characters life but it took me away from the story too many times. I was really disappointed, this could have been such a good read.
This was one of the dullest true crime books I have ever read. If poor Lucie's family was as the author describes, then they are pathetic. It had way too much about Lucie' s family & the trial chapters were a snooze. I made myself finish this & do not recommend.
I loved this book. One of the great true crime books ever.
Well told true story that provides an interesting insight into Japanese culture.
Very insightful full of twists dark