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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-04-27 22:25
The Secret Rooms
The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery - Catherine Bailey

Alright, so this is odd - Goodreads and Booklikes and a few others list this book as "The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery" while Amazon and the library and other places list it as "The Secret Rooms: A True Story of a Haunted Castle, a Plotting Duchess, and a Family Secret."

 

The story flips between, firstly, the author's experience navigating the Duke of Rutland's family archive of letters for a book about the effect of the Great War on the local population which quickly changes to uncovering why there are missing sections of documents in this reportedly perfect record?! and, secondly, the events that occurred within the Manners family during and around the missing periods of time. The main character of focus is the 9th Duke of Rutland, John Manners whom was responsible for creating the archive originally. The mystery is narrowed down by the author to three missing sections of time in the records and she eventually uncovers enough evidence to recreate what likely happened.

 

An interesting story, but the reprinting of letters in their entirety multiple times towards the end of the book to show how all the pieces come together became very tiresome, very quickly. Otherwise I quite liked it.

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review 2015-10-09 23:46
A historical mystery
Secret Rooms - Catherine Bailey

Nonfiction generally isn't my thing. I read it occasionally when interest warrants, but mostly, I stick to my sci-fi and fantasy. But when this book crossed my path first, years ago, I had to put it on a TBR pile to consider for later. And last month, when I realized my library had it, it was finally time to give it a try.

 

This is the story of the Duke of Rutland, who died in an entirely preventable way, cloistered in a few, damp rooms in the back of the servants quarters of his home instead of in the well-appointed rooms set aside for his use as one of the elite of the nation. The author of this book set out to write a war book but ended up discovering a mystery left behind in those rooms, and her focus quite rightly moved.

 

The fact that the research initially started for a war book may be part of the reason I didn't like this book more. It's almost two different books sort of shoved together - the first a tight, nicely paced exploration of her slow unearthing of the mystery behind the Duke's last deadly days and the project that consumed him, and the second, an extensively documented war story with endless letters and repetition.

 

Slimming that latter part a bit would have made for a much more interesting and better-paced story. Things got over-explained, we got letter after letter that didn't always add much. While it's nice to see this stuff in their own words, maybe include the most important and summarize others, maybe with a footnote pointing you to the full letter in the back of the book? It REALLY made things drag.

 

But that doesn't change the fact that overall, this was a fascinating and sometimes disturbing tale of a family that was irrevocably broken from some of its youngest days and from which, the youngest son pretty much never had a chance at regular happiness.

 

I don't want to say too much because I don't want to spoil what's going on here, but seriously... these people.

 

If you're interested in this real-life mystery, it's a solid book, and I think there was a lot more to this book than the last such one I read, "Empty Mansions." It wasn't a waste of time to read, I'll say that - and at times, it was downright compelling.

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review 2015-03-26 15:47
The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery - Catherine Bailey
Secret Rooms - Catherine Bailey

After years of reading fictional gothic horrors, it's kind of a weird delight to discover that there are even stranger things going on in real life. As mentioned in my review of Black Diamonds, I loved it so much I immediately had to get a hold of this, which was her first book.

 

Baily is an historian who is granted access to the Duke of Rutland's private archive. She's going through these beautifully stored and catalogued collections of letters (so many letters), and there are three gaps. The rest of the book is the painstaking collection of evidence to fill in those gaps and solve those mysteries. It's like watching Sherlock at work, as Bailey describes what she has to find next, and how, only she reveals what she discovers as it comes to light. The process is fascinating, as are the things those people got up to a century ago, not least because where did they find the time to plot and write all those letters?

 

The most entertaining sort of history. It's amazing, really, how quickly family history can be hidden. Props to the current Duke and Duchess of Rutland, for giving Bailey such access and assistance.

 

Library copy.

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text 2015-01-11 20:43
PopSugar Reading Challenge - Completed So Far
The Rocheforts: A Novel - Christian Laborie
So, Anyway... - John Cleese
The Secret Rooms: A True Story of a Haunted Castle, a Plotting Duchess, and a Family Secret - Catherine Bailey
Eva's Eye (Inspector Sejer Mystery) - Karin Fossum
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde - Scott Brick,Robert Louis Stevenson
The Short, Strange Life of Herschel Grynszpan: A Boy Avenger, a Nazi Diplomat, and a Murder in Paris - Jonathan Kirsch,Simon Prebble
The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony - Roberto Calasso,Tim Parks
The Thick of It: The Missing DoSAC Files - Armando Iannucci,Jesse Armstrong,Simon Blackwell,Tony Roche,Ian Martin

1. A book published this year: Rocheforts

 

2. A funny book : So Anyway

 

3. A book your mom loves: The Secret Rooms

 

4. A book by a female author: Eva's Eye

 

5. A book more than a 100 years old: The Strange Class of Dr Jekyell and Mr. Hyde

 

6. A book by an author you never read before: The Short Strange Life of Herschel Grynzspan

 

7. A book originally written in another language: The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony

 

8. A book based on or turned into a TV show: The Thick of It The Missing DoSac Files

 

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review 2015-01-03 21:02
A tad disappointing
The Secret Rooms: A True Story of a Haunted Castle, a Plotting Duchess, and a Family Secret - Catherine Bailey

Perhaps it is because of all the hype, but I found this book to be less than desired.  Bailey discovers that a former lord of the castle has destroyed some correspondances for certain years and sets out to find out why.

 

She can write; it is a galloping read.  Yet, I don't quite understand why Violet is a bad mother for not wanting her son to die in WW I.  Yes, what she did was classist and all, but it almost seems like Bailey wants her to be the bad woman in every situtation as opposed to a mere human who might be not want another child to die before her.

 

It's a bit Downton Abbey.

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