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Finding Katarina M.

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"A heart-stopping saga."

"An amazing accomplishment."
--Elizabeth George

From the author of the acclaimed NORTH OF BOSTON comes a riveting new thriller about an American doctor who travels to Russia to meet her estranged grandmother, only to uncover dark family secrets and a dangerous international plot.

Natalie March is a successful doctor enjoying a busy life in Washington DC. She always thought that her maternal grandparents perished in the gulag, Stalin’s notorious network of labor camps. But when a young Russian dancer comes to her office claiming to be her cousin, Natalie must face a surprising truth: her grandmother, Katarina Melnikova, is still very much alive. Natalie eagerly travels to Siberia to meet her, only to be drawn into a web of mystery, intrigue, and danger that will push her to the limits of her endurance.

How far will Natalie go to find Katarina M.? How much will she risk to protect her Russian family and her own country from a deadly threat? FINDING KATARINA M. takes the reader on an extraordinary journey across Siberia—to reindeer herding camps, Sakha villages, and parties with endless vodka toasts—while it explores what it means to be loyal to your family, your country, and yourself.

"The twists are truly unpredictable."
--William Kent Kreuger

"Gripping...fascinating historical details...Natalie's tense and illuminating journey will enthrall readers."
--Publishers Weekly

352 pages, Hardcover

First published March 19, 2019

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About the author

Elisabeth Elo

3 books211 followers
Elisabeth Elo is the author of NORTH OF BOSTON, chosen by Booklist as a Best Crime Novel Debut of the Year. Published in six countries, it was also an Indie Next selection and a Book of the Month / Literary Guild Selection. Elisabeth’s second suspense novel, FINDING KATARINA M., is forthcoming in March 2019.

Elisabeth grew up in Boston, attended Brown University, and earned a PhD in American Literature at Brandeis. She worked as a children's magazine editor, a high-tech product manager, and a halfway house counselor before starting to write fiction. To learn more, visit www.elisabethelo.com.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 87 reviews
Profile Image for Pascale.
194 reviews49 followers
March 19, 2019
Disclaimer: I got a copy of this in exchange for an honest review.

I'm on some streak with these NetGalley titles!

I started reading this when there were people over and I didn't feel like being social (don't judge me I'm a book-person, not a people-person) and was hooked immediately.

The last couple titles I've read have had dual timelines, and when I saw that the first chapter was during Stalin's 'reign' and the next was contemporary that's what I thought I'd be dealing with. I do wish we had gotten to read more of the historical element, but this is firmly a contemporary novel.

Natalie March's world takes many wild turns after a cousin she didn't know she had comes to visit her in Washington. Natalie faces crazy circumstances in Siberia, but she is smart and resourceful and minor spoiler .

Like I said, I enjoyed this tremendously Natalie was a great, and believable character. I'd probably have rated this higher if I didn't feel that the end had been rushed a bit. Maybe we will get a sequel that'll satisfy a couple of the lingering questions I have?! I'd definitely read more by Elo and more about Natalie!

I think there were a couple spelling mistakes if anyone reading this has that kind of access to fix 'em. 'Sarin' gas was spelt once as 'saran', which makes me think of saran wrap, which is definitely not as deadly ;) And I don't think I've ever seen axe spelled 'ax' but maybe it's acceptable both ways...

This a fun thriller about a smart, tough lady and I hope that it sells well so we can get more like it from Elo.
Profile Image for Shannon Kirk.
Author 14 books409 followers
January 9, 2019
Magnificent. Shocking. Compelling. Vivid.

For me, Finding Katarina M “felt” like a mix of Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone (for the sheer shocking vividness of geography and setting you IN a foreign gorgeous scene) and a Ludlum Bourne no-brakes international spy chase. I could not put down this book. Truly. I skipped dinner last night because I just could not believe Elo placed the main character in the situations she did (a bit of a lovely shock every few chapters leaving me wholly surprised) and I kept having to read until she was out of certain situations.

This book is daring in that it is an honest-to-goodness damn good story that takes risks and wins for it. I want books that give me surprises, lift me into a fictional story. I want a STORY and an escape from dreary-old regular, predictable reality. And this gives it in spades. I also want books that educate me on something. Here, I got a first-class education on certain aspects of Russian culture, history, and also Russian geography I didn’t know. And I want to be immersed in the colors and scents and topography of whatever location the book is in. Hannah did this for Alaska in The Great Alone. And Elo does it for Siberia. As I did with Alaska, I thought of it as white and cold before reading Hannah, only to discover it is all color and culture. Same exact for Siberia with Elo. There’s one set of scenes that stand out. And without giving too much away, I’ll just say that a visit far north to the Reindeer herders, as well as a visit to an abandoned Gulag, will stick with me for a very long time.

If you want to be swept away. Surprised at several turns. If you want to be immersed in a different view of Russia. And you want some good spy action and even solid romance mixed in, seriously, read Finding Katarina M.
Profile Image for Irene.
21 reviews4 followers
January 28, 2019
Perhaps you know a lot about your family. Maybe a genealogist great aunt has traced your family back to the Doomsday Book. My family, in contrast, barely escaped from the turmoils in Eastern Europe and I can only look back two generations. So I would not be surprised if a long-lost relative appeared on my doorstep. Which is exactly what happens to Dr. Natalie March, a child of Russian immigrant parents, who is suddenly visited at her office at the George Washington University Medical Center by a gorgeous young Eurasian ballet dancer who claims to be her cousin. Strange. Because Natalie's grandmother died in a gulag after being forced to give up her only daughter--Natalie's mother.
When that mysterious cousin is murdered (garroted, so probably not the casual burglary law enforcement says it is), Dr. March reluctantly travels to in-the=middle-of-nowhere towns like Yakutsk and Cherkeh in Northeastern Siberia. Land of the gulags so eloquently and excruciatingly described by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn and, more recently, in Anne Applebaum's Pulitzer-prize winning book, Gulag.
There is suspense, CIA-backed intrigue and romance in this well-researched, beautifully written book (I loved the reindeer people). But...we expect no less from Elisabeth Elo. If you haven't yet...go back and read North of Boston, Elo's brilliantly crafted debut novel.
Profile Image for Hallie.
Author 20 books530 followers
January 22, 2019
I got up at 5 AM to finish reading FINDING KATARINA M. - it's such a page turner. It's a gripping thriller about a Washington DC surgeon whose search for her grandmother takes her to Russia. Scary believable. Really, brilliant. DO NOT READ ANY SYNOPSIS OF THIS - Just read it and be surprised. (I read an advance copy.)
Profile Image for abdulia ortiz-perez.
634 reviews34 followers
April 4, 2019
I received this ARC book from the author for honest review.

What a great thrill and suspense it was to read. What a great psychological thrill! This novel had everything in it. The thrill, the suspense, the psychological, romance and the twist is crazy. This novel will keep you thinking and guessing. When you think you right, well let me just say that you might be wrong. This had me all over the place. My heart beating so fast! I couldn't believe what I was reading. If had me in shock. Every page, every chapter was a page turner. I couldn't believe my eyes what I was reading. I highly recommend everybody get this book and read it. It will surprise you in every way.

The storyline was very good!
The theme and setting was well put together. The characters was well put together in the story.
This story will have in a rollercoaster with all the spooky and secrets. Was so well put in the story.
Everything all in one book.
It was just perfect!
I highly recommend everybody get this and read it.
What a great read! This had me hooked from the beginning. What a Rollercoaster! The sitting, theme, and the Characters had me pulled so in. Everything was well put together and it was just perfect. This novel would have you guess and thinking all the way to the end. What a great thrill and suspense. I love a great suspense that would have me think and guessing. This novel did just that to me. To the point that am wrong. When the ending comes am on shock. I wouldn't of never believe or guess. Like OMG!
Highly recommend everybody get this book and read it. Its so good!
Can't wait for her next book.
Profile Image for ☕️Kimberly  (Caffeinated Reviewer).
2,999 reviews638 followers
March 18, 2019
Natalie is a successful surgeon in Washington D.C. and an only child. When a young Russian woman arrives at her clinic, she soon learns the grandmother she thought had died in a Soviet work camp lived. Saldana Tarasova is a Russian dancer, and she asks Natalie to help her defect but before she can even speak to an immigration lawyer, her cousin is murdered. Natalie believes her death isn't a burglary gone wrong, but everyone from the police to the CIA argue otherwise. After contacting Saldana's mother, Natalie's mother convinces her to travel to Russia and meet her grandmother.  But when Natalie arrives in Russia, no one is there to greet her and Natalie soon finds herself caught up in a deadly web as she hunts for her missing cousin.

Reindeer camps, mines, Russian prisons and rural villages await you. I found myself pulled into the story even as Natalie's actions made me freakout. Me, I am not sure I could have been as brave as Natalie, or maybe it wasn't that she was brave, but each small step led to a bigger web she needed to escape from. From government cover-ups to spy chases this story had it all. We learn about prisoner camps, past and present and travel throughout Russia as Natalie hunts for her cousin, uncovers danger and searches for her family. Will she find them? Will she ever make it home?

There were a few times the story slowed but the overall pacing was well done and engaging.  Some aspects of events rang true while others seemed made for the big screen, but Elo pulled it all together and created a tale that kept me engaged. I read the tale in two sittings and closed it satisfied.

This review was originally posted at Caffeinated Reviewer
Profile Image for Robin Loves Reading.
2,112 reviews384 followers
May 15, 2019
Natalie March is a busy doctor whose life is upset when a woman from Russia, who claims to be her cousin, tells her that their grandmother is alive. This is after Natalie believed for years that she was dead. Her grandmother, Katarina Melnikova, suffered greatly at the hands of Stalin during the labor camps and Natalie is delighted that she is indeed alive. When her cousin is killed, Natalie is ever more determined to meet her grandmother.

She never expected, however, to be faced with danger. As a matter of fact, she is thrown right in the middle of international intrigue, but remains focused on finding her grandmother. Natalie becomes deeply embroiled with an unlikely assignment and is faced with protecting her family and her country. In so doing, she finds herself in hairy situations. More than once, I found myself holding my breath while reading this story.

I did not expect the action, mystery, espionage and more when I began this book. I was completely drawn into this story. It was a true thriller, but it was also very touching at times. I had a hard time putting this book down. For a doctor to become a spy of sorts was definitely intriguing, especially as she was in a world far different from her own.

Elisabeth Eto is a new name for me, but is definitely someone that I will follow and I look forward to reading much more by her.

Many thanks to Polis Books and to NetGalley for this ARC to review in exchange for my honest opinion.
Profile Image for Lou.
879 reviews857 followers
March 29, 2019
Interview with Elisabeth Elo on writing, and her novel Finding Katarina M. | More2Read

Saldana Tarasova appears in one Dr. Natalie March’s Washington, D.C. office, a Russian national, a cousin with a shared grandmother, Katarina Melnikova.
This grandmother was sent to the infamous Gulag prison with her husband in 1949 and was known to her as dead, but new discovery of her living and surviving sets Natalie on homeward bound to her mother’s native land for answers.
Initially she was in search of answering, “Why on earth had Katarina Melnikova chosen to remain unknown?”
She finds herself on plane to Russia to put pieces of a puzzle together and connect with her family and seek out Katarina M.
Natalie will become Natalya back in homeland and she will rekindle with kin and discover inner abilities of great courage, forbearance, and strength whilst pitted against many dangers and terrible histories.
Natalya does not disappointed, she is a solid, tough, intelligent, female lead character nicely crafted by the author.

Dr. Natalie March. She’s a straight arrow, remarkably independent woman, unmarried, no children, no lover, no church, not even a book club, excellent health, eats well, jogs every morning, lifts weights three times a week, no criminal record, no history of drug use, no extremist political activity or questionable companions, colleagues think highly of her, most everyone thinks highly of her, hardworking, honest, ethical, and dedicated to her profession.
She is almost as clean as they come.
Until things gets dirty and come undone, disappearance, murder, espionage, agents, CIA, FSB, skulls, a web of deceit with conspiratorial manoeuvrings with collateral damage.

It is all tightly packed with smooth writing in a solid thriller bringing alive on the page and evoking all the necessary details converging into an intriguing and atmospheric tale with a likeable and believable potent female lead character.

Review also @ More2Read
935 reviews23 followers
March 18, 2019
This is not just a book – it is an adventure!

When Natalie March, an American physician, travels to Russia to keep a promise for her mother Vera, she has no idea what is in store for her. Vera has always been haunted by the disappearance of her Ukrainian mother Katarina Melnikova who was sent to a gulag when Vera was only a baby. It had been assumed that Katarina died. Natalie has no idea that she will get pulled into a spider web of dangerous family secrets, murder, and deception, dodging Soviet security and going head-to-head with the US’s CIA. Natalie goes to amazing (and often shocking) depths to reunite the threads of her family, testing her courage and determination time after time.

I enjoyed reading of the day-to-day life in the remote parts of Siberia, along with the vivid images painted by Ms. Elo. The scenes with the Evenki people – the “Reindeer people” – were totally delightful. This had me off searching the internet for information and photos of the Evenki.

Elo’s writing quickly pulled me into the story. Her description of the geography of Siberia is totally breath-taking. She also delivered a heart-stopping international intrigue storyline reminiscent of James Bond – 007. I never knew what to expect. At times quite staggering, this story of survival had me on the edge of my seat. I am purposely staying somewhat vague as I do not want to spoil any of the surprises in the story. Just be prepared for a WILD ride!

It is beautifully simple writing, a style not often encountered today. First person narrative, told from only one character’s perspective, and only one timeline. What a relief from the two or three different perspectives with dual story lines. Truly masterful control of the story.

Thank you to GoodReads and Polis Books for the advance reading copy to review. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Doris Vandruff .
468 reviews4 followers
February 5, 2019
Natalie March is surprised into find the young Russian ballerina in her office. She is even more surprised to find out she is her cousin. Adding to that, is the fact that her grandmother, whom she thought had died in a prison camp is alive. She knows her mother, Vera will be pleasantly surprised to learn that the mother she presumed dead is alive and living in a remote village in Russia. A few days later the new cousin Natalie has just recently met is found dead in her apartment. A victim of murder.
Determined to meet this new side of her family, she makes the trip to Russia. Little does she know she will soon be embroiled in espionage, murder, prison and the CIA.
A wonderful story of family, strength and determination. Great characters and interesting facts about Russia and the people who live there. Excellent read!!
Profile Image for Meghan.
2,068 reviews
January 24, 2019
This book was received as an ARC from Polis Books in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own.

I could not stop reading this book. It had it all non-stop action packed excitement with a enriched history that was so interesting and unexpected. While reading this book, it reminded me a lot of a Patterson series and how stories will take unexpected twists and turns just when the reader is starting to pick up on it. Who would have thought a well known surgeon such as Natalie March will have connections to the Russian Mob and the grandmother she thought was dead is very much alive and she goes on the search for her. This is a family reunion that is just way out of left field and she could risk it all just to save her family name. Also it was fun to learn more about the Russian government and all that it took to escape just to reunite their family.

We will consider adding this book to our Mystery collection at the library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
Profile Image for Jill Hallenbeck.
1,319 reviews
February 25, 2019
This is an outstanding, fast-paced Russian espionage story that stretches from Washington DC to Siberia. There is intrigue because of a young ballerina telling her cousin that her grandmother, who is also our heroine's grandmother, was not killed in a gulag, but lives in a town not appearing on any map. Trying to get her grandmother in touch with her mother in the US, Dr. March travels to Russia to bridge this generational divide. Lots of action, good character development, and good descriptions of the peoples who populate that side of the world. I have not read another book with this type of plot and definitely not one with a female lead. Brava!

Thanks to NetGalley, Polis Books and Elisabet Elo for giving me an ARC. All the opinions are my own.

#FindingKatarinaM #NetGalley
Profile Image for Sue Em.
1,156 reviews49 followers
June 6, 2019
Gem of a thriller! When a young woman claiming to be her cousin arrives unannounced at Natalie March's practice office, her ordered life as a workaholic surgeon in D. C. will never be the same. Her mother, invalided with MS, tasks Natalie to go meet Katarina, the mother she never knew. Traveling to Putin's Russia, Natalie encounters unexpected danger in what should be a family reunion. Elo describes the landscape and everyday experience you that you feel you are there yourself. Gulags, CIA agents, uranium mining and the indigenous people of Siberia make this a thriller that is fresh and exciting from the first few pages. Couldn't put it down!
25 reviews
April 1, 2019
First off, I was thrilled to be a winner of the giveaway for Elizabeth Elo's brilliant masterpiece published by Polis Books. I rated this book with a five-star rating because I could not put it down and read the book in three sittings. I became totally immersed in the intrigue, action-packed drama and thrilling depiction of Dr. Natalie Marsh's searching for her grandmother on her mother's behalf that took her travelling to Siberia; and her to endure unbelievable hardships for love of family and country. If you love suspense and spy thrillers, twists and turns that you are not expecting the next move of a protagonist --- this is your book. You will not want to miss a page of this exciting novel. Elizabeth Flo was absolutely brilliant in her crafting of this story and she does not disappoint. The book has everything you want in a read. I was unfamiliar with this author, but after reading this particular book, I will not hesitate to read her next one. In fact, I will go back and read her previous novel. Put this on your "To Read book" for Spring or Summer and you will be very happy you had this experience. Bravo to Elizabeth Elo and the Polis Publisher for bringing this book to all of us to enjoy!
27 reviews
May 6, 2019
FABULOUS! Hooked on this book from the first page. The descriptions are vivid, the characters come alive and are part of your life from the very beginning. Loved how the story unfolded. Did not want this book to end!
Profile Image for Anna Szabó.
468 reviews3 followers
February 10, 2019
Finding Katarina M. is an amazingly written story. This was my first book by her but won’t be the last.

Dr. Natalie March is s renowned doctor. Her grandmother, Katarina Melinkova is beleived to be dead. She was sent to a gulag is Russia when she was young. Her daugher Vera - Natalie’s mother - defected to the United States. And then one day a woman comes to Natalie’s office claiming to be her cousin and asking for her help to defect the United States. Natalie says no but she want to help her any other way she can. And this is where things start to happen very fast. Natalie goes to Russia to meet Katarina but things are never that easy. She becomes entangled in family secrets and political issues.

The story is told from the point of view of Natalie. She goes through a lot in her quest to meet Katarina. It’s a quest because she finds secrets, truth, new friend and family and finally happiness.

I highly recommend it.

Thanks to NetGalley, Polis Books and Elisabet Elo for giving me an ARC. All the opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Ann.
123 reviews2 followers
February 17, 2019
I was lucky enough to win an advance copy of this novel in a Goodreads give away. An amazing story told with great style. I highly recommend this book. Thank you, Elisabeth Elo for sharing! I predict your novel will have great success.
813 reviews6 followers
January 27, 2019
Katerina and her husband were sent to a Siberian gulag and their daughter Vera was raised by an uncle, who later brought her to America. Years later, Vera’s daughter Dr. Natalie Marsh is approached by a young Russian girl who claims to be her cousin. Amazingly, Katerina escaped from the gulag and eventually settled down with a second family. She is now in her 80s and lives in a small village with her other daughter. Vera is suffering from MS and a trip to Russia is out of the question but she asks Natalie to find Katerina and connect with her Russian family. Natalie’s story is one of discovery and mystery that offers vivid descriptions of a Russia that few people see.

When Natalie fails to meet up with her family, she is befriended by an American businesswoman who offers help in finding Natalie’s family.. She actually works for the CIA and in exchange for her help she asks Natalie to complete a simple assignment. Natalie’s cousin Misha was working for the CIA when he suddenly disappeared. She has now been asked to contact his friends and try to find out what happened to him. With nowhere else to turn, Natalie agrees. Promises are not kept, Murder occurs and Natalie becomes a wanted fugitive.

This story slowly evolves as Natalie considers her options and the consequences of her choices. Elizabeth Eto gives the reader descriptions of Russia’s prisons, village life and a remote herders’ encampment that have a cinematic quality to them. As Natalie discovers her roots and re-connects with family, it is often easy to get caught up in the story and travel with her.

I would like to thank NetGalley and Polis Books for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
Profile Image for Doug Jacobs.
34 reviews
March 18, 2020
A young woman goes to Doctor Natalie March’s office and in heavily Russian-accented English indicates that they are cousins. She offers sufficient information to confirm to Natalie that she is genuinely who she claims to be. When Natalie explains to her ailing mother Vera that her grandmother Katarina is still alive, and did not die in a Soviet gulag, Vera insists that Natalie go to Russia to find the now ninety-four-year-old woman.

The novel continues with exotic locations, murder, terrorists, murder, state secrets, spies, prison, escape, murder, betrayal, unlikely friendship, love, family, joy, and, eventually, a return to some level of normalcy for Natalie, and her now larger family.

This was an excellent way to spend a day of social distancing in this age of Covid-19. The writing is as good and perhaps even better than in North of Boston. A simple sentence caught my eye: “But how could a woman as protected as she truly understand a man like him?” The sentence is nothing by itself, but the pathos of this sentence in a first-person narrative struck me. Natalie goes on with her thought explaining to the reader (and herself) what she means by that simple thought and justifying in her own mind the jealousy she feels toward this woman. The novel is beautifully written, with gritty descriptions of brutality, and of the greyness and despondency of the remains of the Soviet state, and lyrical descriptions of the beauty of the Siberian wilderness, and the simplicity of a small village.

Ms. Elo can be proud of yet another success, and I can look forward to her next endeavor and ignoring my family while I spend the bulk of the day curled up on the couch with another great novel. My family will get over it.
Profile Image for Jypsy .
1,523 reviews76 followers
Want to read
February 6, 2019
Finding Katarina M. was not what I expected it to be. The description of Russia and life there were fantastic. I think it's a good story, but I got bored with it. It's a good read for the right reader. Unfortunately it's not me. Thanks to NetGalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Morgan .
795 reviews131 followers
April 25, 2019
Started out wonderfully then went downhill, by the middle of the book I thought the author had started on a different book all together.
Profile Image for Connie.
989 reviews26 followers
June 4, 2019
I loved this book and read it in less than a day. It grabs you from the beginning and doesn't let you go until the very end. I don't believe this could have happened because I don't believe spies are just picked up off the street. This is the second book by this author and I want to read the other one to see if it is as good.

This takes place in places like Washington, DC, Siberia and Russia. Natalie is a prominent doctor in Washington, DC and plans a trip to Russia to see her long lost cousin because her cousin's daughter came to the US and was murdered.

This has espionage, action, adventure and terrorism all rolled into one book. There are some very bad people in this book and the author is very good about describing them and the actions they take.

I am giving this 5 out of 5 stars because it made me feel for the main character and want to keep reading way into the night when my eyes were tired.
Profile Image for Holly Robinson.
Author 15 books237 followers
March 21, 2019
I'm often guilty of picking up books simply because I'm intrigued by the setting, and FINDING KATARINA M. delivers an exotic setting in spades--Siberia! Land of reindeer herders and vodka shots! I was completely transported by author Elisabeth Elo's delicious descriptions. To add to the book's appeal, Elo (author of another of my favorite thrillers, NORTH OF BOSTON), gives us a strong, conflicted female protagonist who isn't afraid to get her hands dirty, a mystery involving a dead ballerina, and enough family secrets to fill a ship. I loved this book because it kept me tensely turning pages and taught me so much about a part of the world I knew little about. Bravo.
9,477 reviews83 followers
March 10, 2019
What a terrific surprise this was! It's a very good read. Natalie, a physician in Washington, is very surprised when a young woman shows up claiming to be her cousin AND that her grandmother, long thought to have perished in a Soviet prison camp is alive. When that young woman is murdered, it sets Natalie down an unexpected path through Russia and into Siberia where she is hunting for her cousin Misha, who went missing while investigating bad acts by the government. There's a CIA element to this which does not ring true (no CIA officer is going to have the sort of conversations this one has on a cell phone anywhere, let alone in Russia) but that's ok- go with it. There's international intrigue but what was more interesting to me were the Evenki and, even better, Natalie's time in the Russian prison. Do not get in Zara's sights! Some of this is entirely implausible but gosh I could not stop reading. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. Well written, suspenseful, and very entertaining.
Author 38 books54 followers
July 29, 2020
This book, both story and writing, held me from the first page. Dr. Natalie March, a successful surgeon in Washington, DC, is confronted with a Russian ballerina claiming to be her cousin. After believing all her life that her grandparents died in Stalin's gulag, March is understandably skeptical. But Saldana knows details, and March believes her. Persuaded by Saldana's aunt and her mother's longing to know what happened to her parents, she agrees to travel to Russia to meet her grandmother. She makes her travel arrangements, but no one is there to meet her. Worse, no one seems to know where her aunt has gone. So begins March's adventure in Siberia.

The story is masterfully plotted, with March confronted with and confounded by danger at every turn. She travels across Siberia, escaping, fleeing, surviving, discovering, until at last she meets the woman she has been searching for, her grandmother. An unsentimental but kind woman, March survives because of luck, instinct, medical training, violence, and official ineptitude.

The landscape of Siberia is carefully described, and its people are viewed sympathetically along with their relationship with the central government in Moscow. Most have no hope of a better life, so their only goal is to get through the day without catching the attention of the authorities. This is a lawless land for many living in its cities, and the only ones who seem to have a tolerable place in the modern world are, ironically, the reindeer herders.

This book is a must-read.
Profile Image for David.
1,630 reviews102 followers
December 19, 2020
Finding Katarina M. by Elisabeth Elo has suspense, intrigue, and mystery wrapped up in a family story of disappearance under Stalin into the gulags. An American doctor is enticed to travel to Russia because of the appearance on her door of a cousin she didn't know she had to meet a maternal grandmother who she understood had been sent to the gulags and likely died there. But she survived and was interested in meeting her. Sounds straightforward so far, but once she arrives there things get crazy with the apparent murder of the cousin she met in the US and the contacts she was given in Russia mysteriously were not to be found. Add in some accusations of spying, a trial and guilty verdict, a transfer to one of the famous Russian camps and you have some page turning material on your hands. While there seems to be no specific factual history behind this story, I believe that various aspects presented have likely happened to some people during the Cold War. I read the audio book version and the light accents by the narrator added some feeling of authenticity for me.
Profile Image for Rachel Lor.
48 reviews1 follower
January 22, 2019
This book kept me up late- it was very intense and addictive. I enjoyed the plot twists and the mystery. It was clearly well-researched, and seemed very believable.

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
Profile Image for Jo-jean Keller.
744 reviews2 followers
July 20, 2019
Transported into a totally alien environment, Natalie manages to survive numerous challenges and locate family members she never knew of.
Profile Image for Roma.
161 reviews544 followers
January 22, 2019
Title: Finding Katarina M

Author: Elisabeth Elo

Length: 332 pages

Publisher: Polis Books LLC

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Historical

My rating: 4/5


Dr. Natalie March residing in Washington DC has a visitor Saldana who introduces herself as her maternal cousin. Natalie, who always thought her grandmother to be deceased in the Russian camp is astonished about the same. Her mother compels her to go in search of her grandmother which she does. Little does she know that her life is going to change upside down with national secrets to be protected and numerous struggles she would face in a stranger country.

My take:

This book was offered to me for reading and reviewing through booksirens. As the title suggests this book is out and out a journey of a grand-daughter in her quest to find her maternal grandmother who was thought to be dead. The title of the book absolutely justifies the plot.

The book is written from the perspective of Natalie. It seems more like a diary then a narration. The descriptions in the book are detailed and easy for a person to picturise the scenes. This book would be an apt choice for a web series or a TV series. Various scenes give you adrenaline rush, viz, when Natalie is given the task to fix the micro-phones in a house secretly or when she visits the death valley where the harmful radiation is detected by her.

Author has undoubtedly researched thoroughly on the topics of Gulag camp, Russian history, Medical practice and life in Russia. Not even once you feel the descriptions are made up or are a work of fiction be it the visit to the death valley or Natalie searching her way to the village of Cherkah.

The tenure of Natalie in jail leaves you intimidated and you can't help but hope she had taken a different decision while at airport. There were some characters who you wanted to know more but nothing much is depicted as per demand of the story e.g. Saldana, Misha, Natalie's Mother and Dmitri.

The pace of the book is slow which makes you feel drained at times. The descriptions of each and every scene is quite elaborate which makes the reading a movie watching experience. Author has done a tremendous job of writing the book which initially started as a family saga but ended up as a political tale.

The history of Russia, the siberian camps, the treatment of prisoners, the brutal experiments conducted on them has been described in a brilliant way making you feel sad. The mystery part is well maintained throughout. All the lose ends are perfectly tied at the end. The ending is complete and apt in all respects.

My rating for this book is 4/5 only for the slow pace of the book.
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