He is the visibly eccentric, dissolute son of a self-made, immigrant real estate magnate. She is a young, innocent woman who left her hometown to find a more interesting, cosmopolitan life in the big city. They meet. A few of her friends get mysterious updates. And then she disappears. Months later, a dismembered body is discovered near the rich man's house. Why has he not been immediately arrested? More and more stories begin to emerge about his disturbing, serial behavior. Is it possible that he's not guilty? The mystery, and ultimate heartbreak, remains as palpable today as it was sixteen years ago. Are answers—is justice—possible?
Richard Lloyd Parry spent a decade reporting the story of Lucie Blackman's disappearance and of the man who stood accused of murdering her. He earned the trust of her family and friends, won unique access to the detectives and to the legal system that seemed utterly ill-equipped to deal with such a criminal—unrepentant and chillingly calculating, a man described by the judge as “unprecedented and extremely evil.” The book that emerged, People Who Eat Darkness, was hailed on its publication as “exceptionally perceptive and nuanced” (Laura Miller, Salon), “a searing exploration of evil” (Susan Chira, New York Times Book Review), “a dark, unforgettable ride” (Carolyn Kellogg, LA Times), “In Cold Blood for our times” (Chris Cleave).
Is your brain still reeling from the conclusion to The Jinx? Is your sense of justice still tormented by Serial? Try a few paragraphs from People Who Eat Darkness. See if it lets you go...
Louise left the embassy. In the two nights since Lucie’s disappearance, she had hardly slept. She was in a torment of uncertainty and tension. It was unbearable to be alone, or to spend any time in the room she shared with Lucie. She went to the apartment of a friend, where other people who knew Lucie were also gathering.
Just before half past five, her mobile rang again, and she snatched it up.
“Hello?” Louise said.
—Am I speaking to Louise Phillips? said a voice.
“Yes, this is Louise. Who’s this?”
—My name is Akira Takagi. Anyway, I’m ringing on behalf of Lucie Blackman.
“Lucie! My God, where is she? I’ve been so worried. Is she there?”
—I am with her. She is here. She is fine.
“Oh, God, thank God. Let me speak to Lucie. I need to speak to her.”
It was a man’s voice. He spoke English confidently but with a distinct Japanese accent. He was at all times calm and controlled and matter-of-fact, almost friendly, even when Louise became agitated and upset.
—She must not be disturbed now, the voice said. —Any way, she is in our dormitory. She is studying and practicing a new way of life. She has so much to learn this week. She can’t be disturbed.
To her friends, Louise was frantically mouthing, “It’s him,” and signaling for paper and a pen.
“Who is this?” she said. “Are you the one she went out with on Saturday?”
—I met Lucie on Sunday. She met my guru on Saturday, my group’s leader.
—Yes, my guru. Anyway, they met on a train.
“But she . . . when I spoke to her, she was in a car.”
—The traffic was bad, so bad, and she didn’t want to be late to meet you. So she decided to take the train. Just before she got on the train she met my guru and she made a life-changing decision. Anyway, she decided to join his cult that night.
“What d’you mean, a cult? What . . . Where is Lucie? Where is this cult?”
—It is in Chiba.
“What? Say that again. Can you spell it?”
—In Chiba. I spell it: C-H-I-B-A.
“Chiba. Chiba. And . . . what is it called?”
—It’s the Newly Risen Religion.
“The what? What is . . .”
—The Newly Risen Religion.
The man calmly spelled this phrase out too, letter by letter.
Louise’s thoughts were churning. “I have to speak to Lucie,” she said. “Let me speak to her.”
—She’s not feeling too well, said the voice. —Anyway, she doesn’t want to talk to anyone now. Maybe she will talk to you at the end of the week.
“Please,” said Louise. “Please, please, let me talk to her.”
The line went dead.
“Hello? Hello?” said Louise, but there was nobody there. She looked at the small silver telephone in her hands.
A few heartbeats later, it rang again.
With trembling fingers, she pressed the pick-up button.
—I’m so sorry, said the same voice. —The signal must have broken. Anyway, Lucie can’t talk to you now. She’s not feeling well. Maybe she will talk to you at the end of the week. But she has started a new life, and she won’t be coming back. I know that she has a lot of debts, six or seven thousand pounds. But she is paying them off in a better way. Anyway, she just wants to let you and S’kotto know she’s okay. She is planning a better life.
He said, quite distinctly, “S’kotto,” the characteristic Japanese rendering of the unfamiliar English name Scott.
—She has written a letter to Casablanca to say that she will not be coming back to work.
There was a pause. Louise began to sob.
—Anyway, what is your address?
Louise said, “My address . . .”
—The address of your apartment, in Sendagaya.
“Why . . . why d’you need to know my address?”
—I want to send you some of Lucie’s belongings.
Louise’s dread, which up until now had been on behalf of her friend, suddenly became personal. “He wants to know where I live,” she was thinking. “He’s going to come after me.” She said, “Well, Lucie knows it. She knows her address.”
—She is not feeling too well now and she cannot remember.
“Oh, I can’t remember either.”
—Well . . . can you remember where your house is near?
“No, no, I can’t remember.”
—What about the street? Can you remember the street?
“No, I . . .”
—Anyway, I need to send her belongings back.
“I can’t remember . . .”
—If it’s a problem, don’t worry.
“I haven’t got it on me now . . .”
—That’s okay. Don’t worry.
Louise was overcome by panic and emotion. Weeping, she handed the phone to a friend, an Australian man who had lived in Tokyo for years.
“Hello,” he said in Japanese. “Where is Lucie?”
After a few moments, he handed the phone back. “He’ll only speak English,” he said. “He only wants to speak to you.”
But Louise had collected her thoughts. She realized that it was important to draw the conversation out, to try to find out where Lucie was.
“Hello,” she said. “This is Louise again. So, can I join your cult?”
The voice seemed to hesitate. Then it said, —What religion are you?
Louise said, “Well, I’m a Catholic, but Lucie’s a Catholic too. I don’t mind changing. I want to change my life too.”
—Anyway, it’s up to Lucie. It’s up to what she thinks. I will think about it.
“Please let me speak to Lucie,” said Louise desperately.
—I’ll speak to my guru and ask him.
“Please let me speak to her,” Louise cried. “I’m begging you, please, let me speak to her.”
—Anyway, I have to go now, the voice said. —I’m sorry. I just had to let you know that you won’t see her again. Goodbye.
The cell phone line went dead for the second time.