In ‘The Bones of You,’ Debbie Howells Channels Alice Seobold’s ‘The Lovely Bones’

the-bones-of-you

The Bones of You channels a popular mystery that came before it, The Lovely Bones, in both title and narrative style. When Jo’s daughter Rosie goes missing, neighbor Kate steps in to provide comfort. When Rosie’s body is found, and news of foul play emerges, Kate finds herself becoming more enmeshed with the Anderson family during their time of grief: beautiful, trim housewife Jo; her newscaster husband, Neal; and their surviving timid daughter Delphine.

The story is told not only through Kate’s eyes but also through Rosie’s, who is now all-seeing in some heavenly afterlife. What Kate couldn’t know about the Anderson family because she sees only their perfect kitchen, breath-taking garden, and stylish clothes, Rosie reveals in an angelic mash of memories. Behind closed doors, the family is falling apart. Rosie reveals a mess of abuse and suffering that may or may not have led to Rosie’s death.

Dreadful scenes of Rosie’s home life contrast with Kate’s naivety as she becomes more involved with Jo. Kate is all concern and stability, a trainer of horses who appreciates their ability to intuit human emotions. Jo, after losing her daughter, is all blank stares and pretty blouses, ordering new furniture while she stays stoic and tries not to reveal any emotion. Her behavior, as well as that of her husband and Delphine’s, is strange. As the novel continues and the reader knows more than Kate, thanks to the passed-on Rosie’s angelic narration, the thrill becomes less “whodunnit” and more “when will sweet Kate get a clue, a bad vibe, anything…”

The Bones of You is compulsively readable, and fans of The Lovely Bones will appreciate the nod to its narrative style. I enjoy a book where the clues are discovered rather than revealed through narration, so this omniscient angel-esque narration style isn’t my favorite. In spite of that, I read it in a few days, and was always eager to get back to it and settle in with its eerie atmosphere. Get your (patriotic) snacks and settle in, once you start this one you won’t come up for air until you’ve finished.

The Bones of You on Amazon.com/Powell’s.com/Indiebound.org

Read an excerpt of The Bones of You

When Your Rich Dad Gets Busted For Fraud: Christina McDowell Lives ‘After Perfect’

after perfect

I went to see the Wolf of Wall Street without context, with two friends, totally unprepared for the movie’s unapologetic, intentional excesses. I felt myself sinking deeper and deeper into my seat at the theatre as the movie played on, realizing I’d never watched a character more on screen that I wanted to punch in the face than Jordan Belfort.

So I noted and appreciated Christina McDowell‘s piping hot, fury-laden open letter to the movie’s makers in the LA Weekly, where she called the film out on its pandering to a Wall Street con man, its buying in to the misogynistic and coke-sniffing American dream. Whether you think Martin Scorsese revealed something repulsive in Belfort through his behavior, or glamorized his lifestyle, there’s no denying that McDowell’s voice appeared as another side of the story. A side of the story demanding to be heard.

And now McDowell’s full story is here. In After Perfect, she recounts her childhood as Christina Prousalis (she has since changed her name). She grew up in the wealthy suburb of McLean, Virginia, blocks from the Kennedy estate, in a mansion where Corinthian columns and ivy frame marble floors and chandeliers. As a girl she played with the children of other Washington elites, tended to by a socialite mother and a businessman father who flew his own Porsche Mooney plane around for fun.

The curtain was pulled back on this illusion of wealth when the FBI stormed the McLean estate, guns at the ready, and arrested her father, Tom Prousalis, for fraud.

In his wake, Tom Prousalis left a trail of lies, confusion, and debt. Her mother discovered credit cards in Christina’s name, which Prousalis apparently applied for and used to try to save the family’s lavish lifestyle in the face of financial issues. Their home and belongings were then seized by the FBI and sold at auction. Christina’s mother was faced with entering the workforce and managing wrecked finances, and Christina and her sisters were unable to get clear answers from their father, who kept promising riches and big payouts from his prison cell.

This is the story of a unique type of victim–McDowell was raised with a level of privilege that shielded her from learning basic skills, then she was suddenly thrown into life headfirst. Everything she learned to value as a child, like designer labels and social status, couldn’t help her find a job or balance her checkbook. She finds herself oddly straddling two worlds, homeless in a BMW, hungry for food but clutching onto her designer handbags. She ends up working in nightclubs, drowning her sorrows in alcohol, seeking attention from men who will never replace the father who broke her heart.

This was a quick read for me, and one I told a lot of people about because the story is just so crazy. The writing is simple and honest, and McDowell’s struggles (financial, emotional) read like a roller coaster of desperation riddled with appearances from an ever-emerging Tom Prousalis, who pops up like the energizer bunny of broken promises.

After Perfect on Amazon.com/Powell’s.com/Indiebound.org

Further Reading:

Summer Reads: S.J. Watson’s ‘Second Life’ Is A Sexy, Slow Burn

SecondLifeCover

I loved S.J. Watson’s first novel, Before I Go To Sleep. I read it last summer, by the pool and by the air conditioning, in just a few days. It is a Memento-style thriller that keeps you guessing throughout its infuriating repetitions as its narrator wakes up each day forgetting the last. It has been adapted into a movie starring Nicole Kidman (which I didn’t think was as great as the book).

This translated to my excitement upon landing an advanced copy of Second Life, Watson’s new book out earlier this month. Second Life focuses on Julia, a woman adrift after the murder of her sister.

Julia is happily married to surgeon Hugh, raising son Connor, when she gets the horrible news that her sister has been killed in Paris. The history between Julia and her sister Kate is full of strife, as their childhood wasn’t a happy one. Julia seems haunted by her memories: not only of her relationship with Kate, but also of her own past, in which she struggled with addiction while living as an artist in Berlin.

Seeking answers where the police find none, Julia teams up with Kate’s best friend Anna to explore the dating site which Kate frequented before her death. While investigating her sister’s murder, however, Julia finds herself feeling undeniable chemistry with a stranger in an online relationship. Her stability, her sobriety, everything she thinks she knows–Julia loses these remnants of normalcy as things spin around her. Her identity fractures and she finds solace in a second life separate from her happy home, with deadly results.

For those who are expecting an equivalent follow-up to Before I Go To Sleep, this felt quite different to me. Second Life felt hazier, the headiness was more prominent, even though both novels focus on women confused by the world around them. This is something I’d love to ask S.J. Watson about, in an interview: “Why these books from the perspectives of manipulated women?” I’d love to see him write about a man in the same vulnerable position as either of his two main characters. Other than this similarity however, Second Life moves at a much slower pace than Before I Go To Sleep. The book spent quite a bit of time describing Julia’s emotions; none of the descriptions explained to me some of her behavior.

If you loved the sexy sinister vibe of Apple Tree Yard, however, this book has your name all over it. I never saw its ending coming. The ending made up for some of the slower parts of the story, as I always love a great twist.

What will come next from S.J. Watson? At this point, I consider him one of the modern masters of the plot twist. I’m already eagerly awaiting his next book.

Second Life on Amazon.com/Powell’s.com/Indiebound.org

Renee Knight’s ‘Disclaimer’ Is This Summer’s Big Thrill

disclaimer

Imagine picking up a book, and being drawn into its story. But suddenly the action swerves, the story turns much darker, and you find yourself appear in the text, a character recognizable except for a name change. The book begins to reveal a secret–a secret you’ve kept to yourself for years, that simply no one could know. And yet, there it is, drawn out on the page, this horrible action, stepping out of the past and into this plot.

When you flip to the disclaimer at the beginning of the book, that page with copyright information which assures the novel’s status as a work of fiction and says, “Any resemblance to any persons living or dead…,” the entire disclaimer is crossed through with a red line. Someone, you realize, is playing with you. Someone, you realize, has written this book just for you.

This is what happens to Catherine Ravenscroft in Renee Knight’s novel Disclaimer. Catherine, successful documentary film maker, transforms from a successful businesswoman into a bundle of nerves as she tries to trace The Perfect Stranger, the novel infiltrating her life and her history, down to its source.

In alternating chapters, the author of the novel is revealed, but this is a story of appearances and expectations, two of the most difficult things to interpret. By the end of the book we’ve learned many times over, thanks to Knight’s nuanced characters, just how much looks can deceive, and just how far the stories we tell ourselves can be from the truth.

Disclaimer on Amazon.com/Powell’s.com/Indiebound.org

Robert Charles Wilson’s ‘The Affinities’ Is ‘Divergent’ For Grown Ups

Affinities

I loved Robert Charles Wilson’s sci-fi Spin trilogy, about an earth which loses its night sky and what comes after those lights go out. When I heard he had a new novel out called The Affinities, I was super eager to pick it up.

The concept of The Affinities is a little bit Match.com, a little bit socialism. Adam Fisk is an early adopter of Affinity Testing. Thanks to the new field of socionomics, he’s led through a battery of tests which may qualify him for one of twelve Affinity Groups. This isn’t just a dating service, though, or a group of like-minded folks: affinity group members get each other from their first meeting, often live together, hire each other, and (eventually) care for their own much more than they do the rest of society.

Lucky Adam tests into the elite Tau Affinity, and the book skips forward to a world brimming over with the potential of affinities able to work perfectly together, people finely tuned for trust and cooperation, but cooperation with only a slice of humanity. Tau is at war with Het, another prominent affinity, and Adam and his family are caught in the crossfire.

As a lover of Wilson’s previous trilogy, this felt rushed to me. The glossing over of Adam’s nestling into the Tau Affinity, and the global shift as affinities rose from an early phenomena to an over-arching issue, felt like an introduction rather than the first half of a novel. And although other reviewers have noted the obvious parallels with social networking, I couldn’t help but think of the Divergent series and other sci-fi with social testing elements as I read. So, if you love Divergent (hey, no shame in that!) and are looking for a story that takes on some of its issues on a more plausible, understated level, this is your book. And if you haven’t checked out Spin yet, make sure to add it to your list.

The Affinities on Amazon.com/Powell’s.com/Indiebound.org

The Real Alex Vause Speaks Out: Cleary Wolters Goes Humble In New Memoir ‘Out of Orange’

out of orange

Cleary Wolters finished watching TV with her declining mother. After tucking mom into bed, she went back to the television. Remote in hand, she watched a woman in an orange jumpsuit step out of a van with a familiar pinstripe pillow. She heard the phrases “lesbian lover” and “drug smuggling” as she watched a montage of prison life. Then she saw Donna from That 70’s Show wearing her own trademark glasses, and she realized she was watching a trailer for her own life. Made into a television show! Can you even imagine?

That story, of how Cleary Wolters, AKA the real Alex Vause, found out about the show, is told in the prologue of her new memoir Out of Orange. I found it to be the most interesting one in the book. To have your life’s illegal choices made into a hit television show without your consultation, seems bookworthy in itself. In relating her story, Wolters seems determined to keep events rooted in her downfall, in the unglamorous truth behind her life as a drug smuggler. I give her props for refusing to hype up her time in the drug trade, but this translates to a memoir unpeppered with Hollywood-style action or Kerman’s own meditations on the inequalities of the justice system.

Wolters loses enchantment with smuggling early on in the story, but fears the powerful African drug boss Alaji so much that she finds herself recruiting others to smuggle drugs to avoid the risky job herself. Wolters experience of smuggling is often one of waiting around for a call in a foreign country, watching money spent at hotels burn through previous earnings, hoping to recoup costs on the next run. It sounds unbelievable stressful, and although there are some glimpses of the high life, with wads of cash thrown around a room or champagne drunk in a warm ocean, the majority of the story documents the struggle of Wolters and her sidekicks as they try to stay above water.

Throughout the memoir juicier stuff is (intentionally?) glossed over–the level of partying among the group (Wolters mentions popping pain pills, but doesn’t expand on the habit), time spent at Alaji’s compound in Africa early on, her motivations for drug smuggling, her feelings for Kerman throughout their time together. She spends quite a bit of time on details difficult to care about without a bigger picture–different cats and their Wolters-caused plights, morning damage control of forgotten drunk fights from the night before, hotel amenities and airport surroundings and where to plot down next. Is all this important? Of course. Does it relate to any larger message on Wolters as a person, justice, drug use in America, being in a relationship with Piper Kerman, or Orange is the New Black? No.

So, what’s the deal with Piper? If you are Orange in the New Black obsessed, read the book. It gives more background on how exactly Piper (real last name Kerman) met Wolters, and ended up being recruited by Wolters. First for watching her cats while she traveled the world, and eventually for traveling with her. Although this is Wolters story, her love affair with Kerman comes on slow and strange, and much more about it is revealed here than in Kerman’s own memoir. Which makes me wonder–will Kerman write another, more personal memoir now, as her first was so focused on the injustices of the prison system?

If you don’t want to read the book, here’s the breakdown: Kerman and Wolters meet at a restaurant where Kerman waitresses. When Kerman comes over to Wolters’s house with a group of people, Wolters is impressed by Piper’s handling of her freaked out cats, who are scared after a move. The kitties love Kerman. Really, Kerman’s downfall could be blamed on her cat whisperer tendencies here. There’s a heavy love of kitties throughout Out of Orange: prison cats, San Francisco cats, cats recruiting Kerman to the darkside. Although the attraction between the cats and Kerman is instant, the attraction between Wolters and Kerman isn’t. Wolters gets the pretty blondie’s phone number, but nothing happens that night.

When Wolters needs someone to watch her kitties and house sit for her during her next smuggling trip, who does she think of but cat whisperer Kerman! She meets Kerman and lays it all down–the drug smuggling, the need for a cat sitter. Thus begins an odd sort of relationship, where Kerman stocks Wolters’s home with healthy foods and tends to her cats, sleeps nude in a guest bedroom, but they remain just friends. There is one scene in the memoir where Wolters gets home from a trip abroad and tries to wake up a sleeping Kerman, throwing money around. I believe this is in the TV show, right? So yes, that happened.

Eventually, Kerman becomes more involved with Wolters, and travels with her. Kerman dresses like a sexy businesswoman, sleeps nude, and spends way more of Wolters money than Wolters secretly desires. Internally, Wolters is losing control of everything. They pose as a couple, although their relationship is a strange business/friendship deal full of power issues. Kerman is the hot one, Wolters is the one with the drug money. Wolters is hoping to groom Kerman for her role in the smuggling operation, but Kerman doesn’t even know this. Kerman clearly likes the attention and the life of luxury, but the luxury part can’t hold out much longer. They never seem to get the payoff they’re hoping for. Finally, they have a threesome with sidekick Phillip, which opens the doorway for the Wolters and Kerman relationship.

Their breakup is as sudden as their hookup. At a hotel in Brussels, Kerman tells Wolters she “can’t do this anymore.” Wolters understands and lets her leave.

When Wolters is arrested, she does ask for protection for a list of people including Kerman. She is terrified that Alaji will kill them all, if he finds out that she has been arrested. As Alaji was involved romantically with Wolters’s sister, she immediately thinks her sister is in danger. Eventually, Wolters claims, what she said didn’t matter as they all pled guilty to conspiracy.

Amazingly, “Alaji,” who is really Prince Buruji Kashamu (is it okay to say this?) has won a senate seat in Nigeria. I wonder what he thinks of the show. Or when we’ll get his memoir…

Out of Orange on Amazon.com/Powell’s.com/Indiebound.org

Summer Reads: Paolo Bacigalupi’s ‘The Water Knife’ Will Freak You Out And Make You Thirsty

The Water Knife

I recently moved from California, in the midst of one of its worst droughts on record, to Arizona, a desert state in perpetual drought. Water is on my mind. So Paolo Bacigalupi‘s new novel The Water Knife, released this week, hit home with me, as it takes place in a Phoenix post-“big daddy drought,” and the city is drowning in constant dust storms. Refugees from Texas live in shanties around Red Cross/China Friendship water pumps.

If you read one book this summer, let it be this one.

After big daddy drought, nothing matters as much as water rights. States are at each other’s throats, closing their own borders and seeking technology to cover rivers and prevent evaporation. The bureaucracies of water management are now militarized. The Southern Nevada Water Authority, led by the fierce boss Catherine Case, is an unapologetic power player, sacrificing suburban sprawl as she cuts off water to outlying areas to save the wealthy epicenter of her city. Rich Chinese and Vegas businessmen live in an enclosed, sustainable arcology that purifies and reuses water, a carefully created ecosystem full of green parks to walk through and lush moisture in the air, for those who can afford to get inside.

Angel Velasquez is Case’s right hand man, salvaged from the gang life and transformed into a water knife, a man who gets things done to keep his city drinking water. Amidst lawsuits and injunctions and national guard troops, Angel is the man you send to bomb out a treatment plant on the Arizona border, before the Zoners send in their own troops. He’s the man who makes sure rivers flow your way, leaving other states dry and thirsty.

And in Phoenix, people are thirsty. We meet reporter Lucy as she throws on her filter mask and grit goggles, and heads out in a blinding dust storm to find out more about the news of a murder she sees on the hashtag #phoenixdownthetubes. There’s Maria, a Texas refugee who’s trying to resist the pull of easy prostitution money for one more day.

Angel, Lucy, and Maria collide in their struggles for survival, and each is memorable, but none stands out more than their landscape. Severe drought brings third world conditions to America in a way that reads both haunting and close to home, with our current drought situations. Today, there is news that water related crimes in California are increasing. Everything we’ve taken for granted, Bacigalupi takes apart.

But Bacigalupi’s message in the book, and in interviews, is that current droughts shouldn’t be a surprise, as we should be planning for them. In The Water Knife, Marc Reisner’s 1986 non-fiction book Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Wateris treasured and handed down as a sort of bible. All the characters marvel at how even in the eighties, people could have seen this coming, known about these limited resources, and not done anything.

I think I’d do a disservice not to mention cli-fi as a growing term, attached to this book and others that address our future as it relates to climate change. Is this a buzz term? I’m not sure. Bacigalupi wrote about this in his review of Welcome to the Greenhouse a few years ago, where he said that the term climate change in relation to fiction makes him squirm, but it is being dropped all over the place. So, think what you will about that. And really enjoy your next glass of cool water, on behalf of these characters!

The Water Knife on Amazon.com/Powell’s.com/Indiebound.org

Cadillac Desert on Amazon.com/Powell’s.com/Indiebound.org

In Laura Van Den Berg’s ‘Find Me,’ Forgetting Kills As It Saves

Find ME

The reviews are divided on Laura Van Den Berg’s first novel, Find Me. While the masses on Goodreads were unimpressed, Salon triumphantly declared Van Den Berg the best young writer in America, and the literati offered high praise. I’m torn between the two camps.

Find Me is the tale of a hospital, and the woman living within it. That woman, Joy, stands in opposition to her name. Before a man knocked on her door in a virus-shielding space suit, offering her a ride on a bus to the hospital, she chugged Robitussin and watched the world fall apart around her, as a mysterious illness ate away at people’s minds and their memories. Joy seems immune to the sickness, and takes the ride to the hospital, where she is studied and coddled and kept sequestered from the real world, or what has become of it.

The patients remember and recite random facts, assuring themselves and the nurses of their health. Pilgrims make way to the hospital, standing in front of its entrance and wondering about its search for a cure. There is routine, and there are disastrous breaks to that routine.

And then, Find Me isn’t the tale of a hospital at all. I didn’t read anything about the book before beginning, so I was surprised, but Joy leaves the hospital and delves more deeply into her history, swimming through memories as she journeys through surreal landscapes, looking for a mother she knows is hers but has never met. The book is cleaved into these two stories–one of stasis, and one of journey.

This isn’t a book about the big answers, but it is a book about the knife-stab into the gut of small ones. In a time when so many authors are writing about collective memory, like in J. and The Buried Giant, Van Den Berg has chosen to sweep all that aside. She’s drilling down to how memory serves us each or acts as a tormentor, a friend or foe, and how sometimes forgetting is the only thing that keeps us alive.

Some have compared this book to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and while I don’t think all these big build-ups serve Van Den Berg (as readers then pick up Find Me with wild expectations), I do think she manages to create a female character that is first, a vivid, broken, whole character, and second a woman. This is something Atwood excels at, making women people first, and what the world perceives they should be, second. Joy is surprising at every turn, often disappointing in her sheer humanness, feeling so solid I could touch her.

On the reverse of this, if you aren’t wooed by Van Den Berg’s even, enchanting prose, which zips you seamlessly into a foggy frame of world just two or three days of sleep removed from our own, if you are a big plot eater hoping to sit down to a big plotty dinner, then you might get a tad frustrated here. Find Me doesn’t tie up all its ends, it takes the ties out of the shoelaces and goes barefoot. It ties up ends you didn’t know it had. It walks right into Donnie Darko territory. I’m talking bunnies. I’m talking sexual abuse. Luckily, those two plot points never meet. But be prepared for the tragic, the weird, and most of all, the lack of a storybook ending.

Find Me on Amazon.com/Powell’s.com/Indiebound.org

Further Reading:

Samantha Hayes Brings Twists To A Small Town In ‘What You Left Behind’

what you left behindIn the opening scene of Samantha Hayes’s new mystery What You Left Behind, a couple joyrides on a stole motorcycle, with deadly consequences. This scene winds it way through the novel, as DCI Lorraine Fisher goes to visit her sister Jo in the country, and stumbles upon mysterious characters and mysterious crimes. In the fictional village of Radcote, a cluster of teen suicides still haunt the community. Jo’s son, Freddie, is clearly struggling, upset about Jo’s separation from husband, Malcom, and whatever keeps him furiously gazing at his phone day and night. But what exactly is Freddie involved in, and what does it have to do with the family who lives in the manor house, who lost their son in the outbreak of suicides last year?

Samantha Hayes proved herself a master of the red herring with the first book featuring DCI Lorraine Fisher, Until You’re Mine. I recommend it, although you don’t need to read it to pick up What You Left Behind.

One of Hayes’s best tricks seems to be to fall into stereotypical characters, and then pull out of them. There were several times, especially with Gil, an autistic (and suspect) member of the manor family who likes to take long walks alone at night, that I thought to myself,”Is she really stereotyping this character this hard? Am I really falling for this?” But (I’m not a fan of spoilers, so without giving too much away) Hayes manages, as she did with Until You’re Mine, to pull off a twist I totally didn’t see coming, as my attention was directed so many places.

If you are looking for a compulsively readable, spooky and fast-paced series to take to the beach or the pool this summer, look no further, as Samantha Hayes has got you covered.

What You Left Behind on Amazon.com/Powell’s.com/Indiebound.org

The Tragic Tale of Lucie Blackman: A Londoner Disappears In Tokyo

pplwhoeatdarkness

At first the story was a puzzle, which developed over time into a profound mystery. Lucie emerged as a tragic victim, and finally as a cause, the subject of vigorous, bitter contestation in a Japanese court. The story attracted much attention in Japan and Britain, but it was fickle and inconsistent. For months at a time there would be no interest in Lucie’s case, then some fresh development would bring a sudden demand for news and explanation. In its outlines the story was familiar enough— girl missing, body found, man charged— but, on inspection, it became so complicated and confusing, so fraught with bizarre turns and irrational developments that conventional reporting of it was almost inevitably unsatisfactory, provoking more unanswered questions than it could ever quell.

This quality of evasiveness, the sense in which it outstripped familiar categories of news, made the story fascinating. It was like an itch that no four columns of newspaper copy or three-minute television item could ever scratch. The story infected my dreams; even after months had passed, I found it impossible to forget Lucie Blackman. I followed the story from the beginning and through its successive stages, trying to craft something consistent and intelligible out of its kinks and knots and roughness. It took me ten years.

–Richard Lloyd Parry, People Who Eat Darkness

People Who Eat Darkness is an example of true crime being stranger than fiction right from the start. Beautiful, young Londoner Lucie Blackman was a hostess in the Roppongi District of Tokyo, lighting the cigars of Japanese businessmen and flirting with them as they drank. She went for a drive to the seaside with one of the men from the club, and never came back. Her panicked roommate, who immediately suspected something was wrong, received a phone call from a man insisting that Lucie had joined a cult and wouldn’t be coming home. Although roommate Louise begged to speak with Lucie, the man refused to let Louise speak with Lucie. “She’s not feeling well,” he said, “she’s starting a new life now.”

Roppongi - photo by David Fuchs

Roppongi district of Japan, where Lucie Blackman worked as a hostess – photo by David Fuchs

Thus starts the strange and tragic tale of Lucie Blackman’s disappearance. People Who Eat Darkness has popped up on so many best of true crimes lists as of late I took it as a sign to read it, and I wasn’t disappointed. Well-written true crime books are hard to find, as they often get so bogged down with dates and facts that they lose some of their humanity, or at the other end, they pay so little respect to the humans involved that they feel flagrant.

Richard Lloyd Parry, as a London correspondent living in Japan, was witness to the entire investigation surrounding Lucie’s disappearance, and ultimately, became an odd sort of part of the story himself, when the man put on trial for Lucie’s death sued him for libel. He is in the unique position to identify with Lucie, as much as an older man can, as a foreigner living in Japan. He seeks, vigorously, from the book’s introduction onwards, to establish and understand Lucie as a human, rather than as just part of a headline. He takes this compassionate stance with every person involved in the story, from Lucie’s misunderstood father who doesn’t seem to behave correctly in the aftermath of Lucie’s disappearance, to her murderer, whom Parry examines through his history and familial experience as well as his shocking, atrocious acts.

Roppongi - photo by David Fuchs

Roppongi – photo by David Fuchs

Without giving too much of the story away here, I think the story of Lucie’s disappearance also illustrates the difficulty of investigation in general, as police have a bizarre brush with their bad guy before they have all the facts, and they let him off. Tokyo as a city is known for its relative safety, and the police are simply unprepared to handle this sort of dark stuff, once it is exposed. The sad story of Lucie, with all its odd turns and stops, reminds me of how different the real world is from the mystery novels I love to read. If mystery novels are full stories chiseled out of a raw piece of marble by an author, true crime is an author stumbling through a quarry after police and criminals and victims, picking up rocks, trying to hold as many as he can in one basket before they all fall loose. From the confusion surrounding what exactly a hostess does to the odd ruling in the trial, Parry manages to patiently explain the convoluted case and its circumstances, while keeping up the pace.

People Who Eat Darkness on Amazon.com/Powell’s.com/Indiebound.org

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