Customer Reviews


159 Reviews
5 star:
 (74)
4 star:
 (38)
3 star:
 (32)
2 star:
 (9)
1 star:
 (6)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A mystery and an aristocratic family's history
Catherine Bailey, intent on writing a book about villages affected World War I, visited Belvoir Castle to investigate the extensive archives kept by the ninth duke, John Manners. To her dismay, she found that John's journal abruptly ended in June 1914, just when his unit was about to enter the fighting. When she read his correspondence, she found the same gap, and on...
Published 15 months ago by M. K. Burton

versus
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very uneven and unwieldy
One cannot deny that this is a major work in terms of research. I shudder to think how many untold hours the author must have spent in digging through records and old letters. However, it seems to me that she is guilty of several things. One is the wildly changing styles adopted throughout the book; sometimes the author addresses us directly in the first person, then...
Published 9 months ago by Mr. R. T. Bowes


‹ Previous | 1 216 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very uneven and unwieldy, 28 Oct 2013
By 
One cannot deny that this is a major work in terms of research. I shudder to think how many untold hours the author must have spent in digging through records and old letters. However, it seems to me that she is guilty of several things. One is the wildly changing styles adopted throughout the book; sometimes the author addresses us directly in the first person, then swerves into a kind of over-florid "faction" style as she narrates in the third person. This is irritating. The second is that there is an awful lot of padding. When writing a book of this kind, it is often not what you put in but what you leave out that is most important. Bailey leaves absolutely nothing out - nothing. The story gets bogged down in lots of unnecessary detail which is not needed to advance the story and which could have been excised; all this achieves is a lack of clarity and awfully dull patches where there is simply much more information than the reader needs. The premise of the book is also wildly over-optimistic; the "mystery" is so hyped that the reader is deceived into thinking that the solution is murder or the theft of the Crown Jewels at the very least. And it turns out to be nothing remarkably earth shattering. Certainly nothing to warrant calling it a "true gothic mystery". The "secret" rooms are not even secret! Several of the minor "mysteries" are never resolved - we never find out the reason for the break-in to the castle committed by a woman disguised as a man, and we never find out the true reason for Haddon's death. Neither, strangely, are any reactions of the current Duke of Rutland's family explored when the "secret" comes out.

I suppose it is a demonstration of Bailey's skill as a researcher and writer that, despite all these caveats, the book races along like a rollercoaster (for the most part) and is (again, for the most part) extremely readable. But its over-long, over-researched, over-laden with too much unnecessary detail and, ultimately, very underwhelming.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A mystery and an aristocratic family's history, 18 May 2013
By 
M. K. Burton - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Catherine Bailey, intent on writing a book about villages affected World War I, visited Belvoir Castle to investigate the extensive archives kept by the ninth duke, John Manners. To her dismay, she found that John's journal abruptly ended in June 1914, just when his unit was about to enter the fighting. When she read his correspondence, she found the same gap, and on further investigation, found three complete gaps in otherwise comprehensive archives. She was so curious that she kept looking and the result was this book, a mystery unwinding into a fascinating picture of a still-privileged aristocracy hovering on the brink of change.

This is a book that actually took me by surprise. I'd read the first few pages a while back and didn't feel compelled to continue. I have to be in a certain kind of a mood for a mystery, and I never felt that the time was right. When I finally did persevere, though, I found an absolute gem of a book. There are actually 3 mysteries, which are the gaps in John's life, and Bailey does an excellent job of keeping the reader wondering about what's happened while slowly revealing a picture of an aristocratic family which simply no longer exists.

The book is structured with chapters that are fairly short. A number of them end in cliffhangers, so that as a reader I was compelled to go on and read more to see what the author would find next; I actually read most of the book on a train and it was the perfect distraction to make a long journey seem much shorter. More than waiting to find out the mysteries, though, I was fascinated by the world which Bailey revealed. John's life, and that of his parents and siblings, is still full of aristocratic excess, but crisis and change is very clearly on the horizon. When he is young, his family is virtually untouchable, yet by the time the first World War is over, this world is simply gone.

The amount of influence the family has - and believes they have - is incredible, and some of the strings pulled to get some of the events in the book to happen are almost difficult to believe now. Bailey quotes copiously from the letters and journals she finds, which helped me feel like I was digging through the archives with her. The way she slowly reveals John's character and the events that shaped his life gave a feel for how she must have experienced the unveiling of his character; overall I thought it was an excellent way to keep me invested and reading. It's also worth mentioning that this is a really quick and easy read for non-fiction; Bailey's writing is smooth and easy to read, and her detective story makes the book feel like it could be fiction.

I'd definitely recommend The Secret Rooms and now I'm eager to read Bailey's first book, Black Diamonds, too.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mama's boy?, 22 Oct 2012
By 
laineyf "widnes" (warwickshire) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
'The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery' by Catherine Bailey is a fascinating tale of secrets that were hidden for a very long time. Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire is home to the Duke and Duchess of Rutland, and their family. Catherine (the author) wanted access to the Castle documents in order to write a book about the contributions of the local people to World War 1. In researching for her book, she uncovered a mystery of long-standing. The story reveals exactly how different were the lives of the privileged. Favours could be called in, money could change hands, and Mothers could use their position to ensure that their children were safe. Violet is the Duchess of Rutland at the time, and her scheming is quite appalling! She is prepared to lie, cheat, and use her children to gain what she wants, no matter what the price that has to be paid. She feels that she is doing the 'right' thing, but the repercussions on John, her son are immense.
I found it quite disturbing that Violet was able to impact on John's life in such a way, but I suppose that is the difference between the upper and lower echelons of society - it's not what you know, but WHO you know. This book was excellent, very readable, really well researched, and fascinating to me. Highly recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well researched but a bit of a let-down, 1 Nov 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A well-written and well-researched book, but ultimately rather disappointing in that the 'mysteries' which are so hyped turn out to be rather trivial - the kind of things that might happen in most families (rivalries between parents and children, childhood accidents, etc). I also found it hard to sympathize with any of the major characters, all of whom seemed over-privileged, selfish, and unpleasant. My overwhelming reaction was a 'so what?' - do we care about any of them, or what happens to them? I thought that most of the principal personnages got what they deserved. Having said that, the big plus point is the beautifully described settings and scenes of life in a forgotten time - the servants and staff at the Castle, the daily routines of the old aristocratic households, etc. Truly a lost world.

I do however agree with other reviewers, who have pointed out that there are far too many lengthy quotations from letters, etc in the book: it could have been greatly cut down. In the 'Acknowledgements', the author thanks various people who helped re-focus the book when it lost direction. I can't help thinking that the author wanted there to be greater 'mysteries' than ultimately turned out to be the case - the secret of Haddon's death, the ciphers, etc being rather a let-down - and this book is an attempt to blow it all up into something more important. Interesting, but a good book rather than a brilliant one.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


44 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Secret Rooms, 26 Oct 2012
By 
Champollion (Shropshire) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Catherine Bailey, following on from her success with "Black Diamonds:The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty," has created a fascinating and compelling story which she initially started as research into the archives at Belvoir Castle about how ordinary peoples lives who worked on the estate had been affected by World War I. The author painstakingly explored the thousands of letters in a suite of rooms which had been sealed after the death of the ninth Earl of Rutland.

That discovery set her on a different track altogether and posed a set of questions about why the ninth Duke had spent part of his life in these 'secret rooms' which were sparse in comparison to the opulence in the castles main areas.

The book reads rather like a detective novel and could easily have been the basis of a story from Wilkie Collins as the tale gives family intrigue, scheming, and 'skeletons in the cupboard.'

I enjoyed Catherine Bailey's writing style, which gave the narrative pace and her construction of secrets and parts of the jigsaw being revealed until the whole picture is complete was a successful one.

The story is many things wrapped into one, "author discovers hidden family secrets," and a highly readable tale of privilege, power, deceit and mystery. Recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stranger than Fiction, 15 Nov 2012
By 
Lovely Treez (Belfast, N Ireland) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I don't usually read a lot of non-fiction but something about this story really drew me in and, to use that well-worn cliche, "you couldn't make it up". From a daunting mountain of documents, Catherine Bailey has succeeded in excavating an intriguing and involving true story of one man's life - a very sad story emerges as she fills in the gaps in the life story of John Manners, the 9th Duke of Rutland.

This is a very detailed and extremely well researched account which highlights the immense power held by the Manners family - power which is abused by Violet, John's mother, who is portrayed as a manipulative matriarch, determined to safeguard the future of the family line, at any cost. Could duty to one's family possibly override duty to one's country at a time of war? When you don't have the luxury of "an heir and a spare" does the end justify the means?

Despite John's efforts to cover up events, he hadn't reckoned on the tenacity and investigative skills of Catherine Bailey. It makes you feel quite sorry for some of the aristocracy although that is tempered a lot when you consider the immense numbers of Rutland estate workers who died in the trenches during the Great War. A very engaging and eye-opening read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A story of aristocratic privilege, subterfuge and shame, 22 Oct 2012
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Catherine Bailey goes to Belvoir Castle, seat of the Dukes of Rutland, intending to research a book about the men from the village who went to fight in the first world war. Once there, however, she uncovers a mysterious gap in the diary of John, the 9th Duke, one which is duplicated in the family letters, and which stretches from July to December 1915. And it's not the only enigmatic silence in the family history - meticulously following the traces of subterfuge and privilege, Bailey uncovers a story of shame that the family tried to hide.

I enjoyed this book but I did find the writing style a little irritating: Bailey makes herself the heroine of the tale and her interpolations ("and then it struck me...") began to grate more as the book progressed.

That said, this is an intriguing story, and I was particularly gripped by the war sections set in the trenches of France and Belgium. The tale of a real-life quest to uncover dark family secrets (though it's not the `gothic mystery' of the cover), this is an absorbing read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Missing Links, 3 Jan 2014
I had watched this book in the WW1 charts with my own for many a month, yet was intrigued that the WW1 connection was not obvious from the cover/title. Curiosity won and I purchased.
The missing war years and 'mystery' are well researched and written, although the final reveal is long drawn out, bathetic and a bit 'so what'. But the other two periods expunged from the Duke's archives are left as unresolved - and the connection between all 3 missing periods is tenuous or unresolved - especially Haddon's death - or perhaps unresolvable with the info available. While it may have explained the measures taken by the family in 1915, why was John so keen to wipe out the memory (there is a final hint at the end, but,...)
When the book gets going it is a cracking yarn of detective discovery and very readable. It needs more editing as there are occasional repetitions of passages word-for-word even within chapters. The overuse of rather melodramatic house characters and pathetic fallacy with weather descriptions slows the early book and would be best trimmed.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not much of a mystery, 14 Mar 2013
This was well written and readable. I enjoyed reading about the research the author undertook on the family. I did however feel that she over egged the mystery pudding. Several family secrets are easily guessable and the central mystery, which I will not reveal in case it spoils another readers enjoyment is not so shaming in the context of the level of society the family lived in, look at the war record of the future King George vi in WW1 it is quite similar.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


49 of 57 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mystery which turns out to be not very mysterious, 21 Oct 2012
By 
Brida "izumi" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
THE SECRET ROOMS tells the story of the 9th Duke of Rutland. In the 1940s, within secret rooms in Belvoir Castle, the Duke dies in strange circumstances. Nearly seventy years later, Bailey discovers that mystery surrounds the Duke, his family and his past. It becomes apparent that this family had secrets which, even as the Duke lay dying, he did his best to remain hidden.

THE SECRET ROOMS took a while to get going, but as the first part of this family's mystery began to reveal itself, I was genuinely hooked. However, what I discovered was that the secrets of this family were not so mysterious after all. The first part of the mystery is tragic. Without wanting to give too much away, it concerns the time when the Duke was a young boy. As I read what happened to him, as a result of something else, my heart truly went out to him. But, given the photographs at the beginning of the book, it was fairly easy to guess what this secret involved. Following this, there are then two further times during the Duke's life where he seems to be hiding some kind of family secret. And, what we discover as the reader, is that actually you can guess what the crux of them is.

Bailey has obviously done a lot of research for this book. At times, this has obviously helped her throughout her endeavour to establish what the secrets of this family were, but I felt that at times she also seemed to drown in all of the detail. As previously mentioned, the beginning of this book took a while to grab my attention, but at just over 400 pages in length, I also felt that she let it go on for too long. Towards the end of the book, I did skip some of the letters between family members and their associates, as the detail they included was really quite inconsequential.

It is difficult to say who would truly love this book. Perhaps all lovers of history or aristocratic families would find much to enjoy, but even these may come away from THE SECERT ROOMS thinking that the secrets were slightly disappointing.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 216 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery
5.99
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews