Elo’s first book was well received, and her second thriller lives up to expectations. It’s an entertaining, if sometimes grim, trip into the unknown territory of Siberia. It portrays the gulags of Russia past and present ... If the plot sometimes borders on the fantastic, the descriptions of the people and places ring true. The author is adamant in her Notes at the end that she is well aware some of the spy story is written to move the action along ... Readers can relax and enjoy a fast-moving romp through the shadows of Siberia in Finding Katarina M., learning about an area of the world that is strange, enticing, and also forbidding. As an introduction to a world that is part of the huge nation of Russia, the book lives up to the one of the book’s epigraphs, a quotation from Czar Peter the Great: 'Russia is the land where things that don’t happen, happen.'
The geographic and personal odyssey portrayed in this detailed and, at times, heart-stopping saga takes readers from a rational, cozy U.S. existence to a Siberian hut, with the personal transformations just as startling. While the novel is somewhat topical, it can be recommended long after the current Russian government’s machinations leave the headlines; try it with fans of Paullina Simons and of Orange Is the New Black.
Much of what ensues strains credulity, though some of her adventures are in themselves quite rewarding and some of the descriptions of Siberia, excellently written. Natalie grows, takes chances, even learns to use bad language, but the accumulated disasters and escapes cost others dearly, and Natalie's burgeoning self-awareness seems cheap ... Some thrills, some chills, but tepid overall.