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on 30 July 2013
On a summer's night in 1955, CIA agent Michael Suslov is summoned to a secret vault in the heart of Buenos Aires. His mission: transport the corpse of Eva Peron to a new hiding place in the wake of her husband's fall from power. But before Michael can comply, everything goes tragically, horribly wrong...
Sixteen years later, Michael Suslov is a ghost of a man, an ex-government agent living off the radar--and the only soul alive who knows where Evita is buried. When an old friend from Argentine Military Intelligence appeals to him for help bringing the body home, Michael agrees, hoping this final mission will quiet the demons from his past. But he's not the only one on a recovery mission: two rogue CIA agents are tracking him, desperate to unearth Evita before Michael does--and to claim the secret millions they believe she took to her grave.
Based on a little-known yet fascinating true story, Blood Makes Noise is a brilliant examination of the power of the dead over the lives of the living.
This book is the author's first novel. Gregory Widen, a former fire-fighter and now a screenwriter and director has many films and projects on his cv. Highlander (1986) and Backdraft (1991) are the two I am most familiar with.
Argentinean history wasn't something that I was taught much (any, actually) of in school and my first awareness of this nation would have been as a young football-mad teenager, thrilled by the exploits of Mario Kempes and amazed at the passion and unity displayed by the supporters during their triumphant hosting of the 1978 World Cup. The previous debuting of the famous musical in 1976, Evita - based on the life and death of Eva Peron would have passed my twelve year old self by, quite easily. Fast forward to 1982 in England and Thatcher's Falklands War brought Argentina back into my consciousness.
Suffice to say, I began reading this book fairly ignorant of Evita and the shadow she cast over Argentina both when she was alive and for many years after her death (and for all I know of the country, still does today). As a captivating tale, steeped in fact and historical detail, I probably enjoyed it much more because of my lack of previous knowledge.
Blending fact and fiction, Widen has created a captivating narrative involving a sympathetic and at times pitiful CIA agent, Michael Suslov. Suslov, married and a father-to-be is the eye and ear in Buenos Aires of the OSS/fledgling CIA. Isolated at work, Suslov shares an office with the FBI, which at this period under J. Edgar Hoover was deeply mistrustful of its younger, rival US intelligence agency. Shorn of support from his own "team", Suslov is drawn closer to the enigmatic Hector, an Argentinean intelligence officer. Hector with dog-cane stick and his limp, whilst physically frail, is sharp enough mentally to stay on the right side of trouble in his home town. Seemingly impervious to the winds of change in Argentina, untroubled with Peron in power, similarly at ease with Peron in exile in Spain and a succession of fragile governments holding sway.
Evita; popular in life amongst the millions of Argentinean poor who loved Her like no other public figure was despised and feared by the rich. Her death in 1952 from cancer, in Her early 30's, failed to rid the country of Her influence and Her memory was increasingly a de-stabilising influence on the establishment in the years following Her death. The subsequent attempts to stifle the Peronistas, led to the audacious plan to dis-interr Her remains and remove Her from the political landscape. Suslov's involvement with Hector in the plan, whilst ultimately successful, leads to the fracture of his family life in horrendous circumstances. Suslov buries Eva in secret, in Italy and departs the scene to the US and an existence in a shambolic pill-addled nightmare.
*Widen often refers to Eva as "Her" in his narrative, recognising the breadth of shadow she casts over all the characters in his compelling narrative. Whilst she is the central, iconic figure within the book, Widen doesn't shy away from airing some of the less flattering postulations on Peron. Namely, she stole millions from her people and country during her life, which she secreted in Switzerland and that she was to put it mildly, a bit of a loose woman, prior to taking up with Juan Peron......fact? conjecture? Who knows, though it does add layers to the tapestry that Widen paints.
With the passing of the years and the on-set of the 70's, Hector resurfaces. Argentina is still a country in turmoil, but the time might be right to bring Eva home. Suslov having survived one nightmare has a shot at redemption. With his life empty of meaning, Michael re-ignites his relationship with Argentina's dead ex-First Lady. Unfortunately for Suslov he isn't the only one obsessed with Evita and the millions she banked.
An explosive finale ensues with a chase across Europe.
Fact, fiction, history, power, corruption, intrigue, family, loss, obsession.....all play out in a fascinating novel. If I have one criticism it would be that at 442 pages long, it was a bit too short! Not often you'll hear me carping about something of this length being too brief. The reality was, I was enjoying it too much to want it to finish.
5 from 5
I was fortunate to receive a copy of the book from Rachel Kinnard at Media Connect, New York - many thanks!
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VINE VOICEon 17 May 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
With over four hundred pages to read through, would this be gripping enough to `go the distance' with?. In a word, yes. With all the hype of the musical `Evita' over the years plus it's spin off film with Madonna in the starring role ( and why did she not get an Oscar or similar bauble is beyond me for her role), most people would know at least something about Eve Peron but how many know about her in death?. This is the premise of this very enjoyable read, part fiction but based on fact most of the time and while the start is quite slow - at least for me - it soon rattles on a notch or three as we read about Eva's embalmed body being moved from Argentina to Europe and back to her husband and a number of times you ask yourself is this fiction or fact, how much of it is as it's very well woven together. Okay, some bits are a bit `border line' as to their content and you ask yourself mentally could this have really happened and if they did her amazing life and death is the stuff of greater minds than ours to analyse. Bottom line, it has all the ingredients, attention to details to make a jolly good film and I would pay to see it quite happily but as a wonderfully well put together book, I give it 5 stars for both effort and the sheer amount of research this must have taken in it's writing. Bravo.
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VINE VOICEon 5 January 2014
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Definitely a different slant on a thriller novel. An improbable (but based on truth) story of mystery and murder and the corpse of Eva Peron. I have previously had no knowledge of the life and actions of Eva Peron (except the famous song "Don't cry for me Argentina") so I did feel this would be a barrier as the story quickly unfolded but actually this clever writer does not allow this to be the case. He cleverly plays with the thoughts that the dead can still hold great power over the living, the plot involves finding Eva Peron's previously moved body. The main character, Michael Suslov is a ghost of a man living off the radar. He is a complex character that I found realistic, and the man questions he and other less `honorable' searchers ask. Can they find Eva forst and claim the secret millions she took to her grave! A great read.
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VINE VOICEon 23 April 2013
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At the centre of this book is death. The death of the women in a man's life, and the man who seems to be carrying death on his back. Michael Suslov is an outsider. His mother is American Italian, his father from the Ukraine. He was brought up in Chicago and Argentina. He is one of the first professional spooks for the CIA, until he is expelled. He starts the novel as an earnest go-getter, hard-working and achieving great things at his station in Argentina, with a loving wife. He has loss in his past, which haunts him, but greater losses are to come and to break him over the 20 year span of the novel.

The high concept of the novel is that Suslov is involved in spiriting (good word that), at the behest of Argentinian agencies, the body of Eva Peron out of the country, to save it from becoming a totem, a fetish. Suslov had met and liked Peron during her life, but even so is reluctant to act, at first. Once he has done so, the situation escalates and others, more fanatic, who see the corpse as something other than the remains of a person, want the body too.

Given that this is a debut novel, Gregory Widen has produced an impressive work, that does not sprawl, is not too concerned with showing all the tricks in a writer's arsenal. He draws strong memorable characters, even if things tend to the grotesque and gothic at times, particularly in the implacable, almost supernatural Alejandro. The sentences display a taut, hardboiled but lyrical prose, that keeps the urgency of the situation and the hopelessness in frame, while allowing Widen to evoke Chicago, Argentina and Europe in a manner that brings each location to life (and in the spirit of the period 50s-70s too!).

That this is the man who wrote Highlander, some elements may make sense. The globetrotting, the fascination with life and death and what they mean, the interest in forms of immortality. I raced through the book, surprised by how quickly the pages turned. I certainly hope that there will be more!
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on 11 January 2014
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This was an impressive thriller. Having read so many identikit thrillers and crime novels in the past I was pleased that this was a little bit different.
The setting was interesting and well researched but thankfully the author didn't include all his research in the book. Exposition is included only when needed.

The story itself worked well. The writing style was decent, the dialogue seemed authentic and the action scenes were well handled. Recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 24 March 2013
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Gregory Widen's debut novel is a dark, gripping tale of a plot to conceal the embalmed remains of Evita Peron -- a plot to protect Her (always capitalised, to reinforce the esteem in which she was held among her descamisados) body from being misappropriated during turbulent political times in Argentina.

Centring around the book's key protagonist, Michael Suslov, a CIA agent operative in the 1950s who is given the task of removing Evita from Argentina, the plot develops at quite a pace, jumping around between decades and giving a snapshot of the whirlwind and fanaticism that surrounded (and perhaps still surrounds) the former First Lady of Argentina. Suslov's plot proves more dangerous than he thought, pushing him to the brink both physically and mentally, driving him to Italy, France and Spain while he is relentlessly hounded by the faceless madman and Evita-obsessive Alejandro.

While there is enough substance to the plot to hold any reader's attention, my main criticism of the book is that it jumps around a little too much -- it is sometimes difficult to keep track of who is doing what, particularly as new characters are introduced somewhat abruptly. The mix of settings -- the rough-and-ready streets of Argentina, the dusty outback of the Argentinian cattle ranches, bustling cities and deserted towns -- and the frequent switching around leave the reader more than a little breathless, and I have to admit at times I found myself tiring and having to re-read pages multiple times. In my opinion, Widen doesn't dedicate enough time to really setting the scene and drawing the reader in, the end result being that the book leaves you a little cold (no pun intended).

To sum up, a book that should achieve commercial success, particularly with the link to Santa Evita, but one that would have benefited from a few more pages.
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on 9 August 2015
A very unusual book. I , personally, liked it largely because it was , in my opinion ,written in an excellent style and was consequently difficult to put down. I note that it is, at least partly, based on actual fact otherwise it would be rather hard to take seriously.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 29 September 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a cleverly constructed tale based on the extraordinary real life story of Eva Peron, wife of the President of Argentina who is the Evita of the eponymous film and stage show, and in particular what happened to her body after her death. Soon after she died from cancer in 1952 aged just 33, plans were made to build her a mausoleum in Buenos Aires where she would be displayed in a similar fashion to Lenin or Ho Chi Minh. However, within a few years her husband, General Peron, was overthrown, and the new dictators, realising the iconic status of Evita arranged for her corpse to be spirited out of the country and interred in Italy under an assumed name. It remained there until 1971 when it was returned to Argentina and buried in the family vault.

The author uses this framework to create a conspiracy involving Evita's hidden millions and a fast moving story with various parties who have an interest in locating the body for their varied purposes. Central to this is an American embassy official, Michael Suslov, a damaged character, who has fallen under Evita's spell during her lifetime, and has his own interest in her corpse. Whilst Suslov is fictitious, most of the other key characters are actual people and as far as possible this account is factual. The story has been cleverly blended in so that the whole tale is unlikely, but probably no more unlikely than what actually occurred. As a piece of trivia, the title, the title refers to the fact that when Evita was embalmed everything was preserved except for her blood which had to be removed as `Blood Makes Noise', and it was not possible to retain it.

This is an impressive first novel with an unusual subject matter. I would say that this is a story which gathers strength as it progresses and the conclusion works well. It is well written with a lot of interesting detail, and, whilst complex is quite coherent. Highly recommended!
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on 21 November 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This thriller is based on a true story and is a very nicely paced crime read from an author new to me: Gregory Widen.

It begins on a summer's night in 1955 and has a plot featuring the dead body of Eva Peron and the CIA - so what's not to love? In fact, it's probably the best book to feature Evita's corpse that I've ever read.

Rivetting and unputdownable!
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I do not read a lot of fiction (although this is fiction based on fact) but I found this story absolutely compelling, fascinating, horrifying and very, very readable. It would help if the reader has some awareness of the reign in Argentina of President Juan Peron in the 1940's, his wife, sometime Minister of Health and Labour, 'Evita' Eva Peron (1919 - 1952) beloved of the poor working class in both the cities and the pampas. The fanatical adoration of this woman by the Peronist Trade Unionists and poor, known as 'the shirtless ones' did not extend to the Argentine bourgeoisie and the all powerful Military, most of whom wished her dead or worse.

It is this almost spiritual obsession in both life and death that forms the backbone of the story as the main characters try to "look after", "take care of", hide and eventually deliver back to her husband Juan in Spain, Evita's embalmed body some 20 years after her death from cancer at the tragically young age of 33. Possession of her corpse is eventually in the hands of an amphetamine and pain killer addicted ex CIA agent, whilst not as obsessed with Evita as some of the people trying to relieve him of her body,he has his own demons to contend with.

Slow starting,the action is ramped up as the story moves from Argentina to Europe, a real page turner - all 400 or so of them. American screenwriter Gregory Widen definitely has come up with the goods with his first somewhat quirky and well researched novel. The characters are extremely well drawn and although a couple are somewhat obnoxious, the reader can come to feel some empathy, if not sympathy, with the major protagonists as the story progresses. Sort of book you have to pay attention to because of flash backs and some sudden jumping around of scenario but this, for me, took nothing away from the story and my ongoing pleasure in reading it. Also it can stretch the imagination a little in places but it is up to the reader to draw their own lines as to what is based on fact and where the authors rather fertile imagination is woven into the story. Several of the characters are based on people who were actually involved in the hunt for and return of Eva Peron's body to Argentina. Or was she ever returned?

I am not going to get into recounting the story as other reviewers have done that but if you like your fiction a bit on the dark side and your characters a bit rough round the edges I cannot recommend this cracking yarn highly enough.
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