Possibly one of the strangest horror novels 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; led 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 ensues. 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 for autumn.
Wax Works is a ghost story … and then some. It is wonderfully written, and unpredictable. The characters are all well drawn. The plot is sharp. The setting of Switzerland and the Chateau Mont Rose is really neat. As the characters ping off one another in this police procedural/ghost story, one can’t help but smile as the author leads the readers down the amusing, yet dark, corridors and twisty turns of literary history, summoning up the ghosts of Mary Shelly and Lord Byron. It’s a very tough novel to describe, but if forced to I’d have to say: It’s Scooby Doo meets Shirley Jackson and James Patterson in a wax museum. It’s a very interesting mix, and it makes for a very fun story. I recommend it highly.
Do Some Places Attract Evil?
Chateau Mont Rose has a nasty past. Mlle Schwartz, a teacher at the school is murdered and the school goes out of business and sits empty for eight years until it is turned into some kind of strange Wax Museum/ Inn years later. Former students of the school receive notice that their school is now an Inn and they show up – and then they disappear. This begins an investigation and a detective with Interpol, Detective Cloquet gets his deputy and nephew, Paul Junod (who in the beginning poses as a taxi driver/ college student) to become part of the ghost hunting film crew that is coming to stay at the Inn. Detective Cloquet wants his deputy to shadow Lauren Briant and Rachel Gordon, both former students of the school who are coming to the Inn, Lauren for a vacation and Rachel, to work.
The girls soon arrive. Rachel now works as a public relations person for a ghost hunting team who has come to the Inn to try and contact Rachel’s and Lauren’s former teacher, Mlle Schwartz and Rachel gets her friend Lauren, who is a writer, a job with the ghost hunting team she works for. Another student from the school is also on the team of investigators, Helena, who is a clairvoyant. I found Helena to be one of my favorite characters with her many piercings and chunky boots. The scenes from when she was a Nellie Olsen-ish teenager with a bad attitude were quite funny. I laughed out loud more than once.
The book reads like a detective novel -slash- ghost story and reminded me of a Hitchcock film. I could see it in my head as I read, playing out like an old movie. The setting was enchanting; an old haunted castle in Switzerland and I thought the colors on the cover and the maniacal face of Grock the Clown in the title were perfect. The wax figurines gave a creepy feel to the book and most especially, Grock the Clown. He gave me shivers. I certainly would not have wanted to see him standing outside my room door!
I like the way the author incorporated Frankenstein and Mary Shelley and Lord Byron in the book as well. I found that all very interesting and the author wove it into the story in such a way that it fit wonderfully with this strange tale.
I finished this book during a storm and it was the perfect way to come to an end to this very unusual and wonderful book. This book was so different from anything I’ve read recently; definitely a one of a kind. This was a book that kept me interested from beginning to end. It flowed.
I definitely recommend this book and look forward to reading more by this author. I hope there’s a sequel!
All in all, it was a fantastic read and I give it 5 stars.
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. Am I 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.