4.17.2012

People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry


"People are afraid of stories like Lucie's, stories about meaningless, brutal, premature death, but most of them cannot own up to their fear. So they take comfort in the certainty of moral judgements, which they brandish like burning branches waved in the night to keep off the wolves."

Farrar, Straus and Giroux is quickly becoming one of my favorite publishers. A chunk of my favorite reads from last year, notably The Submission and The Marriage Plot, were published by FSG. When I signed up for their Work In Progress newsletter, they promised me a review copy of People Who Eat Darkness: The Fate of Lucie Blackman. (Me and the other first 500 people to sign up.) It was my first true crime book I've read and man, was it good. I knew little going into this one and I believe, like most mysteries, that is the best way to go into it, as it heightened my reading experience. I had a hard time putting this one down and I read the first half of the novel in 24 hours. People Who Eat Darkness follows the Lucie Blackman case in which a 21-year-old, thin, blond girl from England moves to Tokyo with a friend, in hopes of to mainge big money, and disappears. The details surround her disappearance suggested she was abducted, but there weren't many details from the start aside from a strange phone call and a mystery man. The author of the book, Richard Llyod Parry, was quite close to this case for its entirety. I didn't feel like there were any holes or questions left unanswered. In fact there were times when I felt there was almost too much detail given, but those instances were few. For over ten years Richard Lloyd Parry followed the case while he earned the trust of Lucie's family and gained countless interviews from those who knew her best.

Lucie was a hostess in Toyko, entertaining men in night clubs for a living. But this role should not be confused with prostitution. A hostess was never expected to preform intercourse with their clients, but rather play toward their fantasies psychologically. One hostess explains:
We were taught three things when we started. How to light our client's cigarettes, how to pour his drinks, and not to put our elbows on the table... Those rules aside, your job was to to fulfill his fantasy. If he wanted you loud, you were loud. If he wanted you intelligent, you were intelligent. If he wanted you horny, you were horny. Sordid? Yes. Degrading? Yes. But one thing it wasn't was the White Salve Trade. The one thing the hostess bars are not about is sex. 
It turns out, this is much more than a true crime book. It's also a lens for what happens behind closed doors in eastern culture, like an anthropological look at the darker, hidden aspects of this culture and their obsession with ritual and role play. For instance the practice of the "water trade" and the long-time tradition of women as a form of entertainment. 

One of the reasons I found this book so interseting is because I learned a lot about the east and how it differs from the west in terms of government, law, and media. Of the handful of times I've traveled abroad, I have never gone further east than Rome, so much of this was new to me. I also felt that I could identify with some of the girls described who traveled to Japan, who had hopes of a more exotic and exciting life. What girl hasn't dreamed of moving to a place that holds such promises? 
Sadly, it all went down hill pretty quickly for Lucie but just as her family and friends didn't know what happened to her right away, neither does the reader. The crime is unfolded chronologically which really makes for a compelling and fast-paced read. Despite the one night of nightmares I had while reading this book, (yeah, it has happened before) I couldn't be happier this book found its way into my hands.   The horrific crimes inflicted on Lucie Blackman were nothing short of pure evil, and this book will ensure her story isn't forgotten anytime soon.  

Chris Cleave called this book "In Cold Blood for our times." Needless to say, I'm really excited to pick that one up, disturbing as it may be.

People Who Eat Darkness will be published May 7th.

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012

21 comments:

  1. You know I'm probably going to buy this sucker now! It looked good, had a great title, but if it has your seal of approval on top of this. Sold.

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    1. Ben, I would be happy to send you my copy. It's about the same amount to send within the US as it is to send to Canada, right?

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    2. I'm trying to lure FSG into sending me a review copy. I'll tell you how it goes.

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    3. Okay keep me posted. I'm never shy about passing on review copies because, well they are review copies. If I love the book I'll usually buy a finished copy.

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  2. I think this has been out in the UK for a little while cause I've seen it in my local library- I remember being interested in the title (because I thought it was going to be about like the really high suicide rates in Japan) and then seeing that it was kind of like a true crime type of thing, and I was sort of like ...thanks but no thanks. But your review has made me all interested again now! So yeah, might be getting this from the library next time I go!

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    1. Laura, You're right. According to goodreads it was published in the UK in December of 2010. I'm happy to have re-piqued your interest! :)

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  3. This book sounds so interesting. Honestly, I probably would have passed this one by without your review. I'm especially interested in, as you say, looking behind the closed doors in eastern culture. Tokyo Vice touched on the topics of hostessing and even more sex trafficking (which it suggested is a slippery slope from one to the other) so it's interesting to read more on the topic.

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    1. There is a big focus on that topic, so I think you would find the book interesting.

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  4. After reading your post, I can't wait to read this one! As far as Capote's, In Cold Blood - soooo good!! You will definitely love the writing! Great post, Brenna!

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    1. Oh I can't wait for In Cold Blood! Happy to hear you liked it so much.

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  5. By the way, I forgot to mention how much I love the new header. Your blog looks great!

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    1. Thank you! I don't mean to keep changing it I've just felt like I didn't love the other header :)

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  6. Okay, now I want to read this even more. I got a free copy too and think it'll be one of the first books I read when I get home. Such a cool cover, such a cool title. My parents have been telling me how good it looks - I suspect they'll have read it before I get my hands on it.

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    1. Ellen, I think you'd really like the book. Also, I love the ARC cover, but I'm not sure I'm sold on the actual cover that will be published. You can check it out on goodreads.

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  7. I don't normally read a lot of true crime, but this sounds really fascinating. Distressing too, but in an intriguing way. I'll have to keep and eye out for it in the shops :)

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  8. Man, I really wasn't planning on reading this one, even though your review was compelling (it was the nightmare that scared me off), but hearing it compared to In Cold Blood did it for me. That is such an amazing true crime novel, and it really is a fine, fine work.

    A friend of mine is an international recruiter for the university here, and she travels quite a bit in the East. She has told quite a few stories that make me extremely nervous in terms of women and traveling alone there.

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    1. I should tell you I'm prone to nightmares when I read a creepy book or even watch something scary before I go to bed. It's just what happens with me. Don't let that put you off from reading it though, it really is good.

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  9. Since I live in Asia (albeit not Japan) I am really intrigued by this book. Do you know whether the Kindle version will be made available on the same publication date?

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    1. Ryan, Good question. I just searched it on Goodreads and it looks like the kindle edition is already out. The book was published in the UK back in 2010, and I believe that edition is the one on kindle. Let me know if you end up buying it and what you think!

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  10. This book was a compelling, albeit terrifying,read. Parry's narrative reads at times like a New York Times fiction bestseller. His background explanations of the "water trade," the Japanese legal system and the secondary role of Koreans in the Japanesd societal structure adds richness and depth to the book. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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