Sunday, June 3, 2012

Just Finished: People Who Eat Darkness

I don't usually read much in the genre of mystery and crime; however, The People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Perry is my second in a row along with And Then There Were None.

I actually won a free proof copy from the publisher through twitter, so there is one good thing that has come from that website.

But I digress...The People Who Eat Darkness traces the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Lucie Blackman, a young British woman who vanished in Japan in the early 2000s.

Lucie, looking for a way out of debt and a little adventure, moved to Tokyo with her best friend Louise to work as a bar hostess where each night she and a host of other foreign girls would pour drinks and chat it up with Japanese men who paid to talk (not touch) them.

To earn money, hostesses were expected to go to dinner with their customers and bring them back to the bar. So it was not unusual when, about six weeks into her stay, Lucie went to meet a customer and go for a drive. She called Louise several times throughout the day to give updates and assure her friend that they were still on for their night of clubbing.

These phone calls were to be the last time anyone spoke to Lucie and were the beginning of a convoluted investigation that would costs millions of dollars and tear Lucie's family and friends apart while also exposing the faults in the Japanese legal system.

As a British journalist in Tokyo during Lucie's disappearance, Richard Lloyd Perry followed the case from the beginning and became increasingly preoccupied with the peculiar details surrounding it – mysterious typed letters with Lucie's forged signature, calls to Louise claiming Lucie had joined a cult, and and a friendless, wealthy Japanese-Korean man with possible ties to the mob. Perry unfolds the story expertly as he creates empathy for Lucie, a somewhat innocent, insecure young woman who is unwittingly consumed by the darkness of a serial rapist.

The book is clearly well-researched (Perry admits that his friends thought he was a little obsessed). Perry won the confidence of Lucie's divorced parents and sister as well as Louise while also drawing the ire of the powerful man accused of Lucie's murder. Perry doesn't dwell on the macabre aspects of the case more than necessary and through his research, he never turns the victim into a sideshow. The book was very readable and especially interesting as I didn't know anything about Tokyo or the Lucie Blackman case. So whether or not you're into true crime, this is a compelling and heartbreaking read that examines not only the crime but the complex effect on the survivors.

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