Feature

People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry

Parry chronicles the murder of a 21-year-old British woman who disappeared within weeks of moving to Tokyo.

(FSG Originals, $16)

“Every foreign correspondent has stories that get under his or her skin,” said The Economist. For Richard Lloyd Parry, Tokyo bureau chief of the London Times, it was the murder of Lucie Blackman. A British former stewardess, the 21-year-old Blackman moved to Tokyo in 2000 to earn fast money as a hostess in the red-light Roppongi District—a job that entailed flirting with wealthy businessmen but not sex. Within weeks, Blackman disappeared, and her body was eventually discovered hacked to pieces and buried in a seaside cave. Chronicling the bumbling investigation by Japanese police and the trial of her captor, Parry has written a “page-turning if horrifying read and a triumph of thorough reporting.”

On the page, Blackman’s wealthy abductor is “every bit as brilliant and terrifying as the fictional Hannibal Lecter,” said Melanie Kirkpatrick in The Wall Street Journal. In a logbook, Joji Obara recorded 209 instances in which he lured women to his home, then drugged and raped them. He argued that the book was fiction, and despite the ample evidence against him, escaped a murder conviction when he was finally convicted of other charges in 2007. Members of Blackman’s family had by then become tabloid fixtures in both countries. Her father at one point accepted “condolence money” from his daughter’s abductor in exchange for making a statement on Obara’s behalf.

Parry’s complex portrait of Blackman’s father is “among the best things in this book,” said Dwight Garner in The New York Times. Tokyo law enforcement gets far less sympathy. A lack of serious crime in Japan has given birth to what Parry calls the “cuddliest police in the world,” one virtually incapable of bringing a man like Obara to justice. A more adept organization, Parry suggests, would have caught Obara decades earlier. But the author puts even more passion into his compelling portrait of Blackman, a young woman he had once hoped to find alive. “That being impossible, he’s done something nearly as good.” He’s “restored her to life” in a “surprisingly soulful” book.

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