Wax Works

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 10 Dec 2019

Member Reviews

Great read. Great book. I would love to read other books by this author. The description was great and the characters seemed real.
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Julia Simpson-Urrutia's Wax Works was described on NetGalley as 'an eerie Swiss boarding school paranormal crime novel', which intrigued me so much I absolutely had to requst a copy. I suspect it was the Swiss boarding school aspect, given that I am a Chalet School fan, though the school in Simpson-Urrutia's novel is actually very different from the Chalet School. Château Mont Rose's main function was to teach French to girls from wealthy families, but it was closed down following the death in suspicious circumstances of popular teacher Mlle Schwartz. Eight years later, it reopens as a combined hotel and waxwork museum. Several former students visit the hotel, and mysteriously disappear within days of leaving Switzerland. Inspector Cloquet of the Lausanne police, the officer responsible for the investigation into Mlle Schwartz's death, is suspicious, and when two more former students, Lauren and Rachel, arrive at the hotel as part of a team filming a ghost-hunting show he assigns his nephew and junior officer Paul to infiltrate the ghost-hunting team and protect Lauren and Rachel from supernatural interference.

Wax Works doesn't quite seem able to decide whether it's a police procedural, a psychological thriller or a full-blown horror story, but it's a fun read and surprisingly funny in parts (I was particularly entertained by the director of the ghost-hunting film, a man who is not only convinced that Frankenstein was the name of the monster but that he was the creation of Lord Byron and not Mary Shelley). I did think that there were probably too many characters, and some of them only seemed to appear very briefly with no connection to the main action of the novel, but it was generally enjoyable, diverting and not too taxing a read (important in a week when I have been utterly exhausted and needed undemanding books).

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a free eARC for review.
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Wax Works by Julia Simpson-Urrutia

Chilling. Creepy. Wax Statues. Clowns. Undead people. This book is one you’ll like to read on a dark and stormy night while sipping a hot cup of coffee (or cocoa or tea, if that is your preference) while mindlessly munching on popcorn (or chocolates—it’s all about preference here). 

Wax Works takes place in Switzerland at a former all-girls boarding school turned hotel/wax museum. A paranormal film team has assembled there. Three of the crew, Lauren Briant, Rachel Gordon and Helena Stamoulos, are former students of the school. They are there to reach into the spirit world and talk to one of their former teachers, Mlle Schwartz who was murdered on the premises. The suave Paul Junod joins the crew as a tech but, in reality, he is with the Lausanne Surete (or police department) where he works with his uncle, the Detective Inspector Cloquet. Paul is tasked with keeping the girls safe while, at the same time, doing some poking around because some other former students who have come back to visit have mysteriously disappeared. 

They say “never judge a book by its cover,” but in this case, you can! Simpson-Urrutia’s cover depicts the grainy image of a Swiss chateau. Rather than elegant and inviting as one would expect it to be because, hey, it’s in Switzerland (hot Swiss cocoa and skiing the Alps, right?) it, instead appears dark, cold and foreboding which is exactly as the author weaves its description in the text. And then there’s the title with the creepy face of a clown peering through the W in “Works.” I’m telling you, that clown, Grock by name, totally has me understanding where coulrophobia comes from. (That’s the fear of clowns. I googled it). That clown pops up throughout the story, freaking Lauren out to the point she fears she’s losing her mind.

Simpson-Urrutia spins a story that keeps the reader gripped and compelled to find out what will happen next. Wax Works has many elements which I really enjoyed; paranormal phenomena, mystery, young love and humor.  Her characters are well defined, interesting and endearing. Even Dominick Bentley, the English film director and Helena’s boyfriend. He’s an ass, but you gotta love him. 

Without giving out any spoilers, there is a part in which Lauren is inhabited by the ghost of Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. I don’t know how she did it, but Simpson-Urrutia was able to convey both the characters of Lauren and Mary at the same time, interacting as themselves with other characters, without confusing the reader. I am impressed. It’s brilliant, good job!

Wax Works is a very good story, well written and interesting. I highly recommend it to creepy ghost story enthusiasts and literature fanatics alike.
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Was Works premise was exciting and I could not wait to read it. There were to many characters and not enough information about them or time with them.
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When I heard the premise of the story I was really intrigued and wanted to read it right away.

An old school for girls in Switzerland goes out of business after a teacher is murdered. Years later the building serves as a very weird and eerie wax museum with wax figures spread throughout the hallways. But it also serves as a hotel.

One day some of the older students from the school come back and bring with them a filming crew. In style of Supernatural Encounters they want to film the creepiness of the place, tell the story and with some luck catch a couple of ghosts on camera.

Even though I really enjoyed the story, I felt like there were many characters that were all mixed together very fast and it did not give the reader time to get to know them and separate them from each other later. There are too many scenes changing all the time between charcters and it gets a bit confusing. This would have worked really well as a movie.
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A weird horror Inspector Clouseau? This feels like a strange fever dream where the author has mixed together police mysteries, boarding school hauntings, and madame Tussauds. It kinda works, though.
It's altogether good fun to read, though it can be a little flat in parts. I'd keep an eye on this author.
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Minor Spoilers

4.5/5

Possibly one of the strangest, inconceivably written horror novel of the year.  I came into this anticipating a HOUSE OF WAX feel based on the synopsis and title itself.  What I read was completely unexpected.  Let me explain:

Two Americans (Lauren and Rachel) reconvene at Château Mont Rose, a former school for girls in Switzerland, and both are former alumni themselves.  The castle, after years of neglect, has been converted into an unusual wax museum, and the wax figures immediately begin to transmit eerie vibes.  It’s not just a vacation or reunion; the two join a paranormal film team, lead by director and producer Dominick, a Tommy Wiseau wannabee, and his over dramatic companion Helena Stamoulos, a former student herself, now a clairvoyant occultist.

The crew begins streaming some live paranormal episodes filled with absurd reenactments and revolting storylines.  At one castle, the team accidentally channels the entity of Mary Shelly, and chaos and mayhem follows.  Eventually, Mont Rose comes back into the picture, and that is a separate story in itself filled with a murderous history and somewhat gothic subplot.  Unbeknownst to the crew, a serious investigation is being conducted behind the scenes by the Sûreté, and one detective is taking matters personally.

Simpson-Urrutia, linguistics being one of her many specialties, doesn’t shy away from Swiss beauty and culture.  This atmospheric approach spread throughout the novel, is unveiled through humor and romance.  Overall, a great read to for autumn.
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