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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 8 March 2011
The fact that this book is published by Jonathan Cape, the doyen of British literary publishers, is the guarantee that it is a serious, well-written account and a cut above the usual books written by journalists. It was for this reason, and a personal connection with Japan that I chose to buy and read it.

The author, Richard Lloyd Parry, is a Times (formerly Independent) journalist who was based in Japan throughout the the period covered by this book. Meticulously researched, it benefits from the author's first-hand understanding of Japanese culture and the legal system in particular. In addition to being present in Tokyo and covering events as they unfolded, he has conducted in-depth interviews with everyone concerned: members of Lucie Blackman's family, people who knew her, the hostesses working in the bars of the Tokyo red-light district and the police.

On one level, at least, this book reads like a non-fiction thriller - there is a certain satisfaction to be found as the pieces of the mystery of Lucie's disappearance come together and the net closes in on the perpetrator. It is also, in part, court-room drama and a whole section covers the convoluted trial of the accused -Joji Obara. It is also the story of a family torn apart by a tragedy of unspeakable evil - the ways in which different members of Lucy's family reacted - and the terrible emotional and psychological scars left upon them by events.

As you would expect, it often makes harrowing and unpleasant reading particularly when it focuses in on the Japanese S & M scene and the nature of Obara's series of crimes against young, Western women. The story is never sensationalised by the author and it offers a sane documentary account.

The first chapters give a picture of Lucie Blackman's early life, formative experiences and personality. The second section of the book then goes on to cover her first experiences of Japan and is particuarly perceptive on the world of the Hostess bars of the Roppongi disctict of Tokyo, Lucie's experiences working there, and portraits of the Japanese salarymen she was paid to entertain.

Joji Obara was never found guilty of actually killing Lucie (the evidence, though compelling, was circumstantial)but rather for the rape - in some cases leading to death - of other young women. Richard Lloyd Parry gives a full account of the life and background of Obara but - despite the jacket blurb's claim - does not really get in to his mind. The accused (and members of his family) were the only people he was unable to successfully interview face-to-face.

As the previous reviewer has mentioned, the compassion, and non-judgemental attitude, displayed by the author to members of Lucie's family is one of the things that marks this book out.
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on 12 March 2015
Brilliant and beautiful, tragic investigation into the death of a young British woman in Japan. An anthropology of mystery and loss across two cultures- the best book I have read in a long time.
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on 6 February 2015
Fab insight into a terrible tragedy and the author provides an holistic overview of the complex world that Lucie entered.
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on 31 July 2014
very good read, again i could not put this down, a very sad end to the story, but it really hits home what can happen
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on 6 February 2017
Overall a boring book that just seems to stumble through what happened and not really get to the basics of what happened. The parts i wanted to know more where very scant, yet some seamilngly pointless parts went into extreme boring details. I eventually gave up about three quarters of the way through the book, it just wasn't worth my time.
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on 26 April 2013
A brilliant book from beginning to end. A true crime thriller - a book I haven't been able to put down!
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on 24 May 2011
This study of the disappearance and subsequent murder of Lucie Blackman goes beyond the usual remits of True Crime to focus on the victim and her famiiies desperate search for the truth. That she disappeared abroad in a culture very different from the West adds a fascinating dimension- the policing aspects are particuarly interesting to read. To suggest that Western police investigations are always competent by comparison is of course wrong (think Madeleine Mccann for example) Indeed, Richard Lloyd Parry makes the point that the police failed to investigate Lucie's disappearance not just because of cultural aspects but also because such violent crime is rare in Japan and they are simply not used to investigating such crimes. This is also a study of disappearance-Lucy disappears in japan and her murderer, Obara has spent much of his life disappearing; camera shy; a loner;pathological in his dislike for the intruding camera and yet ironically willing to film the act of drugging and raping his victims. It is also almost a tragedy of Greek proportions with Lucie's mother convinced of the fate of her daughter the moment she steps on the plane to Japan and comforted at the end by visitations from Lucy in the form of birds and butterflies and signs. Throughout the book Richard Lloyd Parry combines a journalistic knowledge of Japanese culture and mores with a forensic view of the way Lucie's murder fractured her family and made her father Tim take some morally ambiguous decisions- not least accepting money from the murderer, Obara in the aftermath of his arrest and trial. It tries hard to search for some resolution in the murky world of Japanese bars; hostesses and in tracking the outsider that Obara was, born of Korean parentage and thus the victim of racism in Japanese society. This is an exemplary study of society; family and the way lives are almost fated to follow a particular direction. Not a whodunnit; not really a whydunnit- more a study of family, fatherhood and fate set against the tragic murder of an ordinary girl in a extraordinary society.
Written with integrity, balance and skill it still manages to be a page turner and has much to say about the effects of such tragic events on individual lives and on families put under unimaginable strain.
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on 5 April 2012
I don't know why some crimes touch us more than others, but I bought this book because I needed to try and understand, behind the media sensationalism surrounding this truly awful crime.

I couldn't fault the book in any way, it is a thorough account of Lucie's life, the work, the culture, the cases of other women who suffered similar fates, the lengthy court case and also deals with her family and how each of them coped, often in complete contrast to the other, both during and afterwards.

Whilst I need to stay mindful that Lucie's parents are not together and feel very differently about the events, I believe the details the author goes into and the proof of such detials through the various notes at the end, show this book to be an objective, worthy and as true account as possible, of this tragedy, written from the heart.
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on 28 July 2015
Excellently written, thoroughly informative.
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on 11 April 2011
This is probably one of the definitive, if not the definitive, books about the Lucie Blackman killing. Early on in the book the author, a Tokyo based journalist who covered the case, admits that his life has been sucked into this tragedy and that he finds journalistic objectivity to be difficult as he gets to know Lucie's family and friends. He is also drawn into the life of the killer, a mysterious, rich Japanese businessman, originally of Korean origin, as enigmatic and shadowy as the country itself.
The elements of mystery thread through the account, with the author trying his best to answer some unanswerable questions. What provokes a man to drug and rape women while they lie unconscious upon his bed, videotaping himself in the act while preserving his anonymity with a mask? Why do young Western women find themselves working in Japanese hostess clubs, nursing the egos and insecurities of depressed and drunk salarymen? Why do people deal with grief in such radically different ways? How do you cope with losing a loved one in such dire circumstances? The questions repeat themselves as the reportage continues, but answers lie beyond a rational understanding. You can't explain some things, no matter how much you may yearn to.
I've read a lot of "true crime", and this is one of the better written, more thoughtful examinations of a notorious case. It reminded me quite a bit of "The Animals are Innocent", although the tone is slightly more deliberately reserved, as if the author is forcing himself to stand back when he'd really like to pile in with a personal opinion. It's an interesting look at Japan too, and offers several insights into both the society and psyche of what to most Westerners is a pretty unusual and eccentric place. But the book reflects back on the West too - the fact that some Japanese men have become sexually hung up over Western women asks questions of both races. It takes two to tango, after all, if both are willing.
All in all, this was a powerful, emotive and introspective account, and deserves to be taken seriously as part of the "true crime" genre.
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