In April 1940, the ninth Duke of Rutland died in mysterious circumstances in one of the rooms of his family estate, Belvoir Castle. The mystery surrounding these rooms holds the key to a tragic story that is played out on the brutal battlefields of the Western Front and in the exclusive salons of Mayfair and Belgravia in the dying years of la belle époque. Uncovered is a dark and disturbing period in the history of the Rutland family, and one which they were determined to keep hidden for over 60 years. Sixty years on, The Secret Rooms is the true story of family secrets and one man’s determination to keep the past hidden at any cost.
©2012 Catherine Bailey (P)2012 Audible Ltd
Without spoiling the end, this is not much of a mystery. Nor is the underlying subject of any real interest. The author takes a small kernel in the lives of a family and tries to make it into a full-length book. She would have done better to have written a fictional novel based loosely on a true story. This is a hot mess of minutiae and repetition mixed with a large dose of speculation. I can't understand why anyone would put this much time in researching absolutely nothing! The narrator reads like he is really building up to a great surprise ending. Since nothing was happening hour after hour, he put me to sleep quicker than Ambien! The minor trivia learned in this book would fit in a Snapple Tea bottle cap!
European history professor specializing in English history 1870-1939.
A riveting book. I am not entirely certain that I agree with all of the author's conclusions, but she has done a fabulous job of detective work (a major part of the story), and this is particularly fascinating for anyone who is familiar with the era or the characters.
No one comes out looking very admirable.
The boxes of old letters the duke did not manage to destroy.
Excellent and absorbing.
Avid reader of history, biography, and true crime.
This is on my list of best-ever reads. The author's tracking down of documents and other clues to solve the mystery of the title is beautifully paced. As she follows the trail, the two principal settings, life of the privileged upper classes and the trenches of the Western Front, are excellently depicted. She writes well and maintains the suspense throughout. Stephen Rashbrook's narration is perfect - his voice, his accent, foreign pronunciations, pace, evocation of mood - wonderful! This book and the reader are highly recommended.
It could you a severe editing.
Enough with the lists of soldiers and silver.
Time, I could've read it faster.
It's good for a while, then in the final 1/3 gets bogged down in British oddity and indulgence.
First, I have to say that the narration was superb on this audiobook and it made what was a nice little mystery with a poorly structured narrative bearable. Researchers are, understandably, in love with their own process and so they should be. But it's a mistake to believe this automatically translates into a compelling story structure.
There were a number of ways to go about using what is a very interesting set of factual events to construct a novel: you can simply dramatize the facts and weave them into a historical novel (with either the research subject as the narrator or a secondary character as narrator); you can construct the whole piece as a collection of found documents, the way Dracula is constructed, in epistolary form; or you can take the contemporary discovery approach by having the researcher there in the story as a quasi-detective (as was done here). The mistake that researchers who try to turn their research into prose often make is to present themselves as an inert figure. No entity in a story is ever inert and attempting to present them that way is always a mistake in anything but academic writing which is why I agree with an earlier reviewer that this reads slightly like someone's PhD thesis.
Another problem with the story is repetition. This could have used an editor with a firmer hand. Repeating research findings is perfectly acceptable in academic writing, but it's just irritating in what needs to have a more fluid approach. Trust your reader to remember what you wrote three chapters ago. They usually do.
Finally, this this was irritating, the author telegraphs important discovery events by hyping what she's found before she tells you what it is. This really spoils the a-ha moment for a prose-reader. If anything, the opposite approach is more effective. To downplay the advent before a really surprising discovery is revealed.
Sounds like a really unsatisfactory audiobook, but it wasn't. Admittedly, this isn't a book of startling and shocking revelations. It's a gentle, poignant and almost literary unfolding of a man's life. But the core of it is an intriguing story. And, as I said at the beginning, the narration is outstanding, and mitigates a lot of the structural flaws.
This is well researched book ,more like a PhD thesis than a story.It refects well the era of the First World War and the power of the nobility.
The detail like the names and size of each picture in inches listed in sales catalogue sold to raise money for the estate is truly boring and annoying.,the same can be said of other lists.
There really isn't much of a mystery - a lot of build-up is made then revealed to be mundane, not-particularly-unique life events. Also, it was WAY too long - there were well written and entertaining sections that might have made up for the lack of substance, had there been a competent editor working with the author.
Probably not - this was such a let down.
Performance of the reader was good, he just had very little to work with.
Sadly, character needs to be ADDED in order to make this book more enjoyable.
This book is so much NOT what it says it is. I suppose if it was properly titled "Family Letters of English Minor Aristocracy during the early 20th Century" it wouldn't have sold very well.
I love Gothic Mysteries, I could not tell you what this one is about as the reading of it is so bad I simply could not stay with the story. I tried Three times to listen to this and never made past a few chapters, of which I slept through most.
Flat, toneless, no inflection, no life.
I wish I knew, the reader was so bad I couldn't stay with it.
I would love to hear this book with a different reader.
I'm a writer and I love books of all types
History buffs and mystery buffs this is a must read Loved the rich details and the story line
great plot and detailing of characters.
"Great read. Great narration."
I have to admit to a strong partiality to Catherine Bailey's writing (I loved Black Diamonds) and this book didn't disappoint. Listening to this over the weekend of the Remembrance Sunday gave it added poignancy. The narrator was excellent! Great read!
"Fascinating family mystery/history"
I really enjoyed this book - it has intrigue, a love story, tragedy and history. Beautifully narrated at a good pace.
The only reason I haven't given it 5 is because at times it could be long-winded and there was repetition, which confused me!
I think I preferred Black Diamonds.
"It might be true but it isn't Gothic"
A historian might enjoy the book but there was no suspense and no real mystery. There wasn't really a hidden room or anything that was worth hiding.
Fine, he has a good voice and managed to read it without falling asleep.
The very worst part of the book was (I assume) half an hour reading the names if every single man who died in WW1 who had been born in, lived in or even visited Leicester. I say assume because I managed 2 minutes then fast forwarded 28 minutes and it was still going on!!!! Well done to the reader. He must have been at his wits end by then.
"Strange but true !!!!"
Yes I would listen to this book again because I found it a more compelling listen then many fiction novels. In fact at times I had to remind myself that it was not a novel.
That is was true, that the hero/villain of the plot had actually existed, and also the way in which the writer had set out to research one subject but uncovered the initial information which led to this book being written. I also found the methodology of the research interesting. Also, the book is not written like many non-fiction or biographical books. The prose is lively and perfectly read.
No particular scene but overall the relationships between the different individuals was quite fascinating.
No, not particularly, but neither was it a book that I did not want to finish.
I shall never visit Belvoir again without remembering this book and the secret rooms !!!!!!!
"It does get better if you persevere"
The first half of the book is intended to sound like a mystery thriller, the intrepid search for the truth behind certain gaps in the record left behind by John, the 9th Duke of Rutland. Catherine Bailey does not succeed in making it sound anything more than an expose of how tedious it can be to research a novel. Nevertheless, the second half of the novel is given more to the subject of the book than her own investigations and here the book becomes interesting. If the book had been written as a biography of this Duke instead of trying to make the writer sound like a rather boring character in a spy novel I think the pace of the book would have been much faster and the general impression less irritating.
The descriptions of life at the front with the gruesome casualty records make for mind-boggling reading even though the scale of killing in the Second World War is obviously even more horrific.
If the writers left out the part played by Catherine Bailey and stuck to the history of the family I think this would make for a reasonable costume drama.
The story was gripping and the complex family relationships absorbing.
The 'cliffhangers' and the atmospheric detail made me eager to hear more.
The performance was excellent.
Although there was some repetition in the narrative, I found it helpful in reminding me important details which I might otherwise have forgotten.
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