Essential Reading: People Who Eat Darkness

    People Who Eat Darnkess (or, to give the book it's full title: 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) is a gripping non-fiction tome full of labyrinthine twists and turns, each leading down progressively darker paths.

   The extraordinary story of an English student, Lucie Blackman, who, whilst living in Japan, was destroyed in the most inhumane manner imaginable, Richard Lloyd Parry's book is one where nightmare and reality coldly and terrifyingly co-exist

   The facts are as follows: Blackman, a student from Sevenoaks, found herself working in the peculiar vocation as a hostess in the Roppongi district. Her role, one without Western equivalent, was not as a sex worker but, instead, as a lady whose job it was to talk to businessmen in bars and listen to their banal chatter - roles are clearly defined and nothing beyond conversation is expected of a hostess. If, however, a hostess wished to make more money, they could choose to see clients out of ours and, during one such occasion, Blackman went missing.

   The police investigation which followed, sluggish and inert, led to few clues and, shockingly, one of the only leads came from a call suggesting Lucie had joined a cult from which she would never return. Her remains, chopped up and buried in a cave, substantially disprove such a theory.

   Blackman's family appealed to raise the profile of the case, successfully lobbying Tony Blair to seek justice, and (whilst in Japan) procedings became even more unhinged. Lucie's dad, Tim, it was reported became drunk on a combination of grief and attention - for a father distraught over the death of his daughter, it was suggested, he became overly pleased the publicity of the case brought him and publicly enamored by the hostesses in the bars he investigated.

   Charlatans, crooks, liars, thieves and the scum of the underground involved themselves with the case; the stop-start investigation led down the wrong path several times. Yet, when a conclusion is in sight a twist comes from the deepest most depraved place imaginable. And, as justice is near and the reader feels they cannot be shocked any more, an astonishing betrayal from Tim Blackman halts proceedings in its path.

   People Who Eat Darkness is an incredible piece of writing; beginning as a non-fiction suspense novel, Parry slowly peels away back the layers of a grimy and unimaginable world. We become entranced voyeurs to the sickest corners of the human soul - often we're made to feel complicit with this.

   A remarkable piece of long-form reporting, which moves back from the micro-details of the case to Japanese society and, ultimately, a moral investigation of the human condition, Parry's book is as uncomfortable as it is peerless. We grimace as we're lead to unimaginable darkness but perhaps the heart of the book lies with Parry's character studies - Tim Blackman is one of the most three dimensional characters imaginable to have appeared in written form. Extracts from Lucie's diaries sketch the outline of a sad, tragic and forlorn character who, with heartbreaking candid earnesty, wrote: "every single part of me from head to toe is completely average." It's a rare sight of humanity in a book where not much is forthcoming.
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