The opening pages of Akira Otani’s raging 2020 bestseller, “The Night of Baba Yaga,” immediately contradict the reader’s expectations.

In the backseat of a white sedan, a young, red-haired woman, kidnapped by a group of Japanese yakuza, flits in and out of consciousness. Only these gangsters aren’t cold, hardened mobsters. These men are on edge, vulnerable and wary; as jumpy as their loud, colorful neckties. But it is when the car stops and the woman is dumped to the ground where expectations truly realign. Because in Otani’s adept hands, neither is this woman a victimized, helpless ingenue. She is Yoriko Shindo, undaunted and unwilling to compromise. Shindo relishes violence and excels at it. Despite her weakened state, she won't be subdued by the horde of white-shirted henchmen who rush in to subdue her, physically overpowering them all. Yet, she finally acquiesces by refusing to kill the attack dog they unleash on her.

The Night of Baba Yaga, by Akira Otani. Translated by Sam Bett. 216 pages, Soho Press, Fiction.