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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


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 Cover

ISBN13: 9780374230593
ISBN10: 0374230595
Condition: Standard
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Even later, when she found it difficult to see any good in her husband, Lucies mother, Jane, always acknowledged that Tim Blackman had saved their daughters 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 wasnt being pumped round her body. I didnt know what to do. I was cuddling her on the floor, and Jane had run down to phone an ambulance. Lucie was completely quiet, wasnt 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 didnt 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. Id thought about it before, when Lucie was born. But at that moment, I knew that if anything had happened to her, and we didnt 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.

Janes labor had to be induced, and it lasted sixteen hours. Lucies head was positioned against her mothers 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 Id had a baby. But she wasnt 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, ‘Shes not going to die, is she? and he said, ‘Oh no, dont be silly, of course not. And then I came home from school that day, and shed died. Shed 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.”

Janes 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 wifes death, he married a woman in her mid-twenties. Jane was appalled. “But he had three children, and he just couldnt function. It was terrible. The truth is that I cant remember much of my childhood. When youve 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 didnt meet him, but I remember seeing him in these bars, surrounded by beauties,” said Jane. “But I was very sensible, I was very careful. Ive got the word ‘sensible running through my body like a stick of rock. Everyone else might have been swinging but I wasnt. I was just very boring.”

In Mallorca, Janes 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 hadnt 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 cant say it was a wild time, because Im 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 Tims 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 hadnt fallen for him just like that, so I was a challenge. But I had no confidence, if Im 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 couldnt understand why I hadnt fallen for him hook, line, and sinker, and I couldnt understand why anyone would fancy me, and I think thats why I ended up marrying him.” The wedding was eighteen months later, on Tims 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 didnt 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 childrens 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.

Lucies school exercise books suggest how successfully Jane created for her children a world of innocence and delight.

Name: Lucy Blackman

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Lilian Cheng, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by Lilian Cheng)
After I finished the prologue, I already had chills going down my spine. It was not a good idea to start this in bed/before going to sleep, since there was this "a ghost is sitting on my bed smoking a cigar" scene. I've been reading a number of dark books lately, I didn't know if I could get through another and still have a good night's sleep (being the scaredy cat that I am.) I debated immediately returning the book to the library, but ultimately decided to stick it out. I had a plan where I would read at least fifty pages a day of People of Darkness, while I also read other happier books to "neutralize" the horror. So much for that plan, because I ate (pun intended) this book up in two days.

Before reading this book, I already knew about hosting in Roppongi, courtesy of a few Japanese dramas I've watched that feature hosting--albeit a romanticized version. There are also similar occupations in Hong Kong (my birthplace,) where girls would drink with customers in a bar/karaoke--though I don't think it's nearly as lucrative of a business as the one in Japan. Although the idea of hosting isn't surprising to me, I was impressed with Parry's description of Japan which was always vivid.

Suspense (I See What You Did There):
I wasn't sure how Parry would be able to expand a news article into 430 pages without boring me, but he did. Because of the suspenseful writing. Parry has a way of obliquely referring to something, but NOT TELL YOU THE ANSWERS. After the big criminal reveal, I was expecting to delve into his eccentric lifestyle, or his motivations, but instead I had pages upon pages of stuff about his family. It wasn't boring, but I kept thinking "HURRY UP! STOP BEATING AROUND THE BUSH, GIVE ME THE JUICY DETAILS." I was restless as Parry goes through the family roster. I breathed a sigh of relief when I found out there wasn't much information of Obara's youngest brother so I was spared at least a page or two. Hallelujah!
The same thing happened with Lucie's family. A chunk of the book was dedicated to the drama between Tim and Jane, Lucie's divorced parents. *yawn*

Pictures, My Greatest Fear:
I hated the pictures in this book. Not that I think Lucie wasn't pretty, but because I already knew the fate of Lucie that I kept thinking of her as "that dead girl who gets cut up and dumped in a cave." Seeing her picture inevitably brought up images of a decayed, cut up cadaver. It didn't help that I took Biology last semester and the section on body farms scarred me for life. Pictures of Obara didn't bring up images of decaying bodies, but I kept thinking "oh, this guy looks friendly! He doesn't look like the type I would pepper-spray on the street at all." His aversion to pictures made him such an interesting person (it also made me wonder if he was prepping for his a life of crime all his life.) His picture drawn on the cover? I thought it was just a mean-looking lady until I read the book. It's the hair. I guess you really can't tell bad from facial features, although I keep thinking I can.

The last two at the end of the book gave me a minor heart attack. Don't worry, it wasn't gruesome. It was just a picture of Lucie and one of Joji Obara on the next page. I told you I was a scaredy cat.

MY REACTION during those last three pages:
Whew, I'm done with the book!
Okay, I think I recovered. *flips page*

I wasn't expecting two pictures back-to-back. So whoever decided on the order of pictures, I hate you.

Japan, Safest Country?
Parry makes it a point that despite these horrific crimes, Japan is still a safe place. And therefore, there's a lack of experience from detectives in solving crimes. However, I wonder if the reason for low crime rates has to do with police not taking reports seriously (this guy raped at least two hundred of women before he was caught, what the heck? Aside from a name change, he wasn't even being that sneaky.) Or is it just the people who have reservations about reporting crimes? In an effort to maintain their reputation and the illusion of a safe city, do they purposely dismiss people calling for help? Turns out the police weren't inadequate at all once they had the ball rolling.

But I sure don't want to be involved in any crime activity in Japan. Who knows when something will actually be done? On the other hand, it's a paradise for criminals. It was decades before Joji Obara was caught. He wasn't even particularly a stealthy criminal, kept a mountain of incriminating evidence around, had a notebook on how much chloroform to administer like he was doing a science experiment, should've probably also destroyed his computer too. Reading how the mystery was unraveled made me think, "Damn it's really hard to bury a body" since there were witnesses EVERYWHERE (just that they didn't know the significance of what they saw.)

Parry did a wonderful job leaving the topic objective. It's too easy to say that Joji Obara was a creep and a evil man. But like Tim, Lucie's father, I felt for Obara despite his horrendous crime. He was rich, but he had no friends (if Parry's guesses are correct,) his brother hasn't seen him in a decade, and seems to be in some serious denial, to the point he's crafted some ridiculous fantasy for himself. The laughable, clumsy way he tries to cover up this tracks made me think he was not only panicked, but also felt guilty. Why would he go through the trouble of making a "oh, she joined a cult!" phone call to Lucie's friend, Louise? He would later imitate Lucie (albeit very poorly) and write a "Don't look for me" letter" that would fool nobody. In retrospect, Louise should've probably lured the guy out with a fake address (he was probably trying to bribe her with money) and then have the police arrest him. I think I watch too much TV.

But Still, We Don't REALLY Know What Happened:
Courtesy of Obara's denial, what caused Lucie's death is still a mystery in the end. It is suspected to be a sleeping drug/chloroform overdose, but what kind is still unknown. How in the world did he get his hands on so much of it? Knowing she died of drug overdose or chloroform is also somewhat comforting, knowing that she died in her sleep and not brutally tortured to death. It is frustrating that Obara will probably be carrying these secrets with him to his grave.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I'm not surprised it appeared on many best of the year lists. I was surprised, however, at how fast I was about to get through it. Though I admit to speed reading after the mystery was unraveled and the suspense was drained. I also admit to be utterly terrified of this book. After finishing it, I returned it back to the library along with a few other horror reads (or anything that involved dead people) I had planned for the month. I don't think I have stomach any more dark reads for the month. I need a happy book now! Reading this book also made me want to keep a diary so that if I ever disappear, people will know what's up--hopefully.

On the other hand, it doesn't show in the cover picture, but the physical book looks stunning. The book cover almost looks like it's been printed on foil due to it's high-reflectiveness. I kept holding it against the light. SHINY!
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Product Details

Parry, Richard Lloyd
Farrar Straus Giroux
Asia - Japan
Biography - General
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
32 Black-and-White Illustrations
7.5 x 5 in

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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 Used Trade Paper
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$11.50 In Stock
Product details 464 pages Farrar Straus Giroux - English 9780374230593 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "London Times Asia editor and Tokyo bureau chief Parry (In the Time of Madness) spent nearly a decade in pursuit of the truth behind the disappearance and murder of a young British woman in Tokyo. He offers an exceptional — and terrifying — account of sexual sadism, the Japanese legal system, and a family ripped apart by tragedy. Twenty-one-year-old Lucie Blackman traveled to Tokyo with her best friend in 2000 to pay off her debts by 'hostessing,' which, unlike prostitution, simply involved chatting up male visitors for as long as possible. But one night, Lucie disappeared. For seven months, her father, Tim, and younger sister Sophie traveled to Tokyo repeatedly, begging for help from the public and the inept police, who seemed to be investigating at a glacial pace. Eventually, Lucie's dismembered remains were found buried in a seaside cave near the home of the only suspect. Reporting the story, Parry discovered a side of Japan he hadn't known; his Tokyo thrums with energy, and the long-dead Lucie haunts the page as her killer fills the reader's consciousness with an undeniable sense of dread. Agent: Jen Carlson, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Synopsis" by ,
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 Lucies 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 Japans 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
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