Along with this storyline, the reader is exposed to another that is set in the Ukraine during the early years of the Stalinist regime (Soviet Republic) in 1934. At that time, there was a terrible famine and the concurrent rise of the political machine (Party) that encouraged children to report on their family and neighbors as kulaks who wanted to be fed by the proletariat. Two little girls, Olga and Oxana watch as their life, village, and family change under the Soviet state. These two sisters are being trained as young pioneers when Oxana is singled out for her singing ability and is asked to perform at a meeting. Jealousy, extreme cold, hunger, and the other problems within their family, lead to a decision that ruins them all. How is this story related to Natasha?
Even though a bit confusing with the multiple narratives and points of view, it all converges in an interesting climax by the end of the book. I had to flip back and forth at times to keep track of names, places and dates. Nina is an interestingly flawed character who is emerging stronger though she still has a lot of issues to work through. Other characters in the book have appeared in previous novels and it's important, I think, to have read the other two books in the series before you tackle this one as there is quite a bit of history and detail there. I think it would be weak as a stand alone and probably quite hard to understand all the motivations.
I'd recommend this series to anyone looking for a strong heroine who is not a detective, but who is peripherally involved in a mystery that involves different police agencies and that has an unusual setting. Often the novel leaves the reader with issues to ponder (illegal immigration, abuse, communism, murder, vendetta, informing on family) and for book groups to discuss.
Amazon Vine ARC.