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First look: The Night of Baba Yaga by Akira Otani

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Do you ever feel like it’s time to try something new? Well, a first look at The Night of Baba Yaga, out in September and written by Akira Otani, tells us that this is crime fiction that will take you to a different place.

The Tokyo author doesn’t fit the mould we’re used to when it comes to Japanese crime fiction. Akira Otani is gay and comes from a background writing scripts for the country’s video games industry. As an author, she rails against the stereotypes imposed on women and their bodies. Her first crime novel is a gangland thriller with two female protagonists caught up on the macho world of the yakuza.

Shindo is a mixed-race fighter who has been kidnapped by a gang, but who gives as good as she gets. Her fighting prowess – injuring many male assailants along the way – earns her a job protecting the kingpin’s daughter. It’s not a role she can walk away from.

Thus she meets Shoko, naive and controlled by her father and the other men around her. Will Shindo’s influence see Shoko pushing the boundaries and bending the bars of her metaphorical cage? And, if so, will either of these women survive?

The approach taken is a big departure from most Japanese crime fiction we’ve seen, which follows in the steps of the Golden Age mystery. This is faster, punchier and perhaps a little reminiscent of Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka. It will be interesting to how, if at all, the reference to Russian folklore in the title comes into play.

By all accounts, the book is a face- and gender-smashing wild ride of violence, devotion and a desire for freedom. At just over 200 pages it’s a quick read, hastened further by its electric pace. The cover of this early review copy is loud and impactful in deep pink, with a bloody katana slash through the type highlighted by a spot UV, which makes the blood drops sparkle in the light.

Will it sparkle in our review? You’ll have to wait and see… In the meantime, check out our first look images below.


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