People Who Eat Darkness

Photo: Ben Goldstein/Studio D

6 of 7
People Who Eat Darkness
464 pages; Farrar, Strauss and Giroux
Give us a well-told true-crime story over a traditional thriller any day. People Who Eat Darkness, Richard Lloyd Parry's account of a British-born bar hostess in Japan who goes missing, is 400-plus riveting pages of painstaking reconstruction, astute observation, and insightful cultural commentary centered on a crime. In 2000, 21-year-old Lucie Blackman moved to Japan to work as a drinking companion for wealthy men in a Tokyo nightclub, a job requiring plenty of submissive behavior (listening to the sexual fantasies of drunk salarymen wasn't even the worst of it). Parry delves into Lucie's pre-Japan life and meticulously pieces together her last days; he also, over many years, gathers and analyzes information from Lucie's family and friends, other hostesses and their customers, and, of course, the police. Most impressive is Parry's ability, after going on two decades as the Tokyo correspondent for two newspapers, to explicate the differences between Eastern and Western attitudes toward sexual behavior, social class, and the law. He articulates the pressures on Japanese men and the yearnings of Western women, though neither group comes off as particularly sympathetic or kind. Copiously detailed, Parry's book tells the truth not just about the violent end to one young life but about the ways gender and culture affect us all.
— Sara Nelson