The Secret Rooms

The Secret Rooms

A True Gothic Mystery

Book - 2012
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A castle filled with intrigue, a plotting duchess and a mysterious death in Catherine Bailey's The Secret Rooms.

At 6 am on 21 April 1940 John the 9th Duke of Rutland, and one of Britain's wealthiest men, ended his days, virtually alone, lying on a makeshift bed in a dank cramped suite of rooms in the servants' quarters of his own home, Belvoir Castle, in Leicestershire.

For weeks, as his health deteriorated, his family, his servants - even the King's doctor - pleaded with him to come out, but he refused.

After his death, his son and heir, Charles, the 10th Duke of Rutland, ordered that the rooms be locked up and they remained untouched for sixty years.

What lay behind this extraordinary set of circumstances?

For the first time, in The Secret Rooms , Catherine Bailey unravels a complex and compelling tale of love, honour and betrayal, played out in the grand salons of Britain's stately homes at the turn of the twentieth century, and on the battlefields of the Western Front. At its core is a secret so dark that it consumed the life of the man who fought to his death to keep it hidden. This extraordinary mystery from the author of Black Diamonds , perfect for lovers of Downton Abbey, Brideshead Revisited and The Suspicions of Mr Whicher .

Praise for The Secret Rooms :

'Reads like the best kind of mystery story. It is a tale of mistresses and heirlooms, cowardice and connivance, and a deeply dysfunctional family ...gripping' Sunday Times

' Astonishing...jaw-dropping ...It would spoil the book if I revealed the whole works, suffice it to say...what a family' Sunday Telegraph

'An extraordinary detective operation ' John Julius Norwich

Publisher: London, England : Viking, c2012.
ISBN: 9780670917556
Characteristics: ix, 466 pages, [24] pages of plates :,illustrations, geneological table, maps, portraits ;,24 cm.


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Apr 06, 2021

I was really expecting more of a mystery based on the reviews contained on the book jacket. The haunted castle aspect was never covered by the author past the first chapter when talking about the date of the death of the 9th Duke of Rutland. The sealed off rooms were never really secret, nor were thy sealed off. The 10th Duke after his fathers death had no interest in the family's history or the 5 rooms containing his families records, He shut them up and the servants and the rest of the family just didn't go in them. The author's research disclosed three gaps in the history of the family during the life of John, before he became the 9th Duke. Apparently he had spent almost 20 years collecting letters, newspaper accounts and other records and then systematically purging the records of three periods of his life. I was hoping at the end of the book for a better or at least some kind of reasoning or explanation for the actions of John, his mother and his father for the first two periods. The only period of time with any conclusion is during WWI, when the actions of his family, military officers and ultimately of himself protected him from the horrors of the trenches and spared his life. He apparently came to despise his cowardice and sought to cover it up by attempting to destroy the records. He wasn't completely successful. An interesting book, but kind of disappointing.

IndyPL_SteveB Jul 03, 2019

The Belvoir Estate, home of the Duke of Rutland, has one of the largest collections of letters and diaries covering the last 400 years. Most of them have been locked away from the public since John Manners, the 9th Duke died in 1940. The Duke died in his private work rooms, four “secret” rooms that he allowed no one else to go into. Dying of pneumonia, he continued working in those rooms, refusing to see the doctor who had come to help him, until he became unconscious. No one knew why. The rooms were sealed for 65 years.

In 2008, Catherine Bailey, researching a book on life on the estate during World War I, is invited to be the first outsider to look at the collection. Almost immediately, Bailey realizes something odd. All of the letters, diaries, and most notes of any kind from July 7, 1915 to December 5, 1915 were missing, along with a period in 1894 and another period in 1909. The assumption is that this was what John Manners was doing in his last days – attempting to obliterate three segments of his life or, at least, the evidence of some events in the family history.

The solution to the mystery might not be quite as earth-shattering as the publisher would have us believe, but it is an interesting look at privilege and scandal in the life of a “Downton Abbey” type of family.

Apr 09, 2018

I am not sure when I read this book, but it was at least in 2015 or earlier. It is interesting, but not great.

Dec 05, 2015

Great promise and an interesting read, interesting archival detection, but I really was expecting something other as the solution, so disappointed.

Apr 27, 2015

Insanely rich, titled and entitled British family manipulates others to ensure the continuance of their genetic line. Somehow the main crux of this story is not the jaw-dropper it's made out to be. Tragedy follows the Manners family in the beginning of the 20th century. The heir and apple of his parents' eyes dies at age 9. Although there's nothing shameful about the true cause of his death, his family prefers outsiders to think he died of tuberculosis. Though it's obvious he was not ill, they even go so far as to put this on his tombstone. After cruelly abandoning the 2nd son and new heir, his mother later manipulates anyone and everyone she can to keep him off the front lines in WWI. Though he resists at first, he later goes along with it and many years later removes all correspondence during the time to keep it secret. The gap in correspondence is discovered by the author and so the book was born. Though the 2nd half drags a bit, all is very well written and an interesting chronicle of the time.

May 19, 2014

Very interesting book. The beginning was very fast. The middle became a little boring and long. An interesting insight to life in that era.

Kassia_F Jul 09, 2013

I actually have not commented on a book prior to this, but I had a hard time deciding whether to read this book due to the two wildly divergent comments made about it previously, so I wanted to add a tiebreaker for anyone else who might be interested in the future. Personally, I found this book very hard to put down for the most part. The first weekend I brought it home I hardly stopped reading it. The mysteries begin immediately, and each question that is answered only leads to another one. It did start to lag a bit towards the end, but overall it is definitely worth reading.

nelson21 Apr 22, 2013

Dull & poorly written. The writer makes a very good case for a Republic.

hilarymh Feb 10, 2013

A brilliantly researched and written book which captures the era at the turn of the last century and through WW1. Hearbreaking in parts the author, who started wanting to write a book about the servants and workers on the estates belonging to the Duke of Rutland, finds gaps in the meticulously catalogued family archives that leads her on a totally different journey. It shows the dark side the British aristocracy and how they used their power. Highly recommended.

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