Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery” as Want to Read:
The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  4,866 ratings  ·  833 reviews
When the 9th Duke of Rutland died alone in the cramped family archives on April 21, 1940, his son and heir, Charles, ordered the room sealed. Sixty years later, Catherine Bailey became one of the first historians allowed inside. What she discovered when she began reading through the duke's letters was a mystery involving one of the most powerful families in British society ...more
Hardcover, 450 pages
Published November 1st 2012 by Viking
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Secret Rooms, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Melanie I would recommend Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Lady Almina an…moreI would recommend Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by Fiona Carneron. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.45  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,866 ratings  ·  833 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery
As another reader wrote, "A lot of fuss over nothing." It is, indeed, a well-researched family history, but while the Duke of Rutland was an important figure in English society, he was a vain and shallow man, married to a vain, petty, and scheming harridan, and together they ruined the life of their son.

The first half of the book went quickly, and a sense "mystery" was fueled by mysterious gaps in the family archives. But the last quarter was, I found, sheer slogging as an unearthed cache of a l
Jan 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is a saying: "More money, more problems." After reading this book, I think there should be an addendum for nobility: "More titles, more drama."

"The Secret Rooms" is the story of the 9th Duke of Rutland, John Henry Montagu Manners, and the family secrets he tried to hide. Before John died of pneumonia in April 1940, he locked himself into his archive rooms at Belvoir Castle and would not come out, working ceaselessly on a mysterious project, even against his doctor's orders to rest. After
Diane S ☔
Dec 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
3.5 When Catherine Bailey goes to Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire, it was with the intention of writing a book about the impact of World War I, on the Duke of Rutland's estate. Let into rooms that had been closed, the 9th Duke having died in them, she finds a treasure trove of letters and other historical documents, she also finds a mystery. Certain time frames have had all letters and documents from all members of the family excised. The mystery of why is too much to ignore and so the focus of ...more
Feb 02, 2014 rated it did not like it
The author drags you along for over 600 pages, promising revelations, secrets revealed, mind boggling suspense. What you get is a dry history full of a largely unsympathetic main character, his aggravating and shrilly selfish mother, and the rest of his detestable family. One of the main "secrets" is never actually even explained, but constantly brought up throughout the book. Excellent reading fodder if you are trapped on a plane with nothing else to do for about eight hours.
I am not giving this book any stars because as much as I tried to get into this book each page was a chore to read. Labeled a gothic mystery it should have been labeled a informational documentary. I read the first 45 percent or a little more of this book. I did find the history good, author Catherine Bailey really did her research, the story was interesting me being a history buff. However it read so boring as just informational. The pictures were nice that were in the book. I only wish I had e ...more
Maya Panika
Nov 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely corking tale, better by far than most novels I’ve read recently. I don’t think I’ve ever read a non-fic book with so many cliff-hangers.
My one and only bug bear (and it is but a small gripe) is with the chapters on the Great War where there is, to my mind, a lot of superfluous detail about the war. Obviously some historical background is necessary, to put the events of John’s life into context. I don’t think we needed quite so much as we got. I can’t help but feel that Catherine B
Mar 25, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This started out so well and with such promise...."a castle filled with intrigue, a plotting duchess and a mysterious death"

I was hooked from the first page. What was the big mystery? I loved finding out as Catherine Bailey picked away at clues, painstakingly researching this very well written book. Then about halfway through I began to suspect that we'd never really learn the truth. There were too many gaps in the letters, too much of a cover up of events long past. The little facts that were g
May 28, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What the hell was this? No seriously what the hell? At first I was apprehensive about reading this but knowing my reading history, I like to give every book a chance. Unfortunately. I wanted to personally rip out every page of this book and not recycle anything. I did not have a clue what this book was about, does it suppose to be mystery? Ohh creepy, horrific, thrilling right? Puh please this book is abominably bad, not even worth the time or effort. For the life of me, I do not understand why ...more
Find this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot....

I've been bouncing around thoughts on Catherine Bailey's The Secret Rooms for a couple of weeks now, vainly trying to convince myself that I don't know what I want to say when in reality I've just been putting off a review I wasn't in the mood to write. Something about wanting to like a book more than I did, having to rectify deflated expectations against the reality of experience, call me crazy but it just doesn't insight m
Page 28:
Whatever it was that kept the Duke closeted in his secret rooms in the last hours of his life haunted his family too. Shortly after he died, his son, Charles, the 10th Duke of Rutland, closed them. In 1999, almost sixty years later, they were finally opened to outsiders. Today, only a handful of people have been inside them.

Page 58:
Had I stumbled across something? Was there a link between the missing war letters and whatever it was the family had wanted to hide?

Page 59:
Briefly, I explain
Kaethe Douglas
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 res
Oct 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Catherine Bailey visited Belvoir Castle with the intention of writing about the part played by the Rutland family and the workers from the estate during the First World War. When she started to do her research she stumbled upon a mystery that had been hidden for many years, once she started to delve, she came across a story that has now become the focus of this book - a completely different book to that which she had planned, but one that is incredibly detailed and often reads like a fiction nov ...more
Author Catherine Bailey set out to write a history of the men from a British estate who fought and died in WWI. But when she found most of the information and records she sought were missing instead of being carefully stored at Bevoir Castle, she ended up with a different story altogether.
What happened that caused the 9th Duke of Rutland to spend his last days on earth purging all records of three periods in his life, including from when he was only six years old?

Bailey does a great job, but I
Jan 17, 2014 rated it liked it
This book bills itself as more riveting than it is. It does have a mystery- three actually- but is limited by the destroyed historical record, made all the more intriguing because it was done by John, the protagonist. Bailey is great at creating tension and suspense, but the pay off is extended and not complete enough. I would recommend reading this book if you know you can finish it in a short period of time; I read it in a week and that pace was even agonizing for the reveal.

Slight spoilers b
Ghost of the Library
If I didn't know this was true I would have given sincere congratulations to the author for a very well balanced and inspired tale worthy of a movie adaptation...this reads like a Brideshead Revisited or an Agatha Christie mistery - even if none of the deaths happen on purpose.
The Secret Rooms started, as the author notes, with a very different purpose/topic in mind - to investigate the background of the many that fought and died in WW1, more specifically the men belonging to the estates of the
Sep 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The ninth Duke of Rutland died in 1940 in a suite of rooms which was then sealed by his son. For many years no one was allowed in the rooms. Catherine Bailey, the author of this fascinating book, was allowed access to them and to Belvoir Castle archives so that she could find out how World War I had affected the ordinary people of the area.

Before long she realised there was another mystery she needed to investigate and write about. Why had the ninth Duke spent the last years of his life closeted
Nov 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 powe
Jan 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I am big fan of books, both fiction and non-fiction, about the lives of the aristocracy in late 19th Century and early 20th century Britain. Their traditions and way of life were quickly becoming unsustainable and irrelevant and their stories make great reading with many opportunities for humor. But, as much as I love the works of Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene, it is the non-fiction books that I really pull me in, and The Secret Room is one of the best.
Bailey sets out to write a book about the
Cindy Knoke
Jan 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
How this author accomplished this tour de force tome is beyond me. The prodigous and brilliant research that went into this book is astounding. Tiny leads in family archives are followed up in national archives dating from pre to post WWI, to create a painstakingly accurate non-fiction read. As if her skills as a researcher were not enough, the author couples this with brilliant writing, creating a book that will keep you awake at night with suspense and fascination. It reads like an excellently ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly enjoyed reading this, and it confirms by belief that truth is always far, far stranger than fiction.
I loved Catherine Bailey's earlier book Black Diamonds so had high hopes for The Secret Rooms and I wasn't disappointed.
Hard to review it without giving away some of the secrets she discovers during her research. Recommended.
Jan 20, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Overall pretty interesting but the big family secrets that are supposed to be so mysterious are much ado about nothing really.
Jan 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Okay, so on the one hand, I enjoyed this. It’s basically a period soap opera, except real, and I loved the details of Bailey’s investigations and all the information she uncovered about things that were supposed to be obliterated from the historical record. I even like that it’s imperfect, that she couldn’t find every answer and had to leave some gaps. It’s a great look at the work of doing history, and it’s incredibly intriguing.

And I enjoyed the characters. I didn’t *like* any of them, except
Dec 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone wishing to learn about WWI & British aristocracy.
Catherine Bailey’s The Secret Rooms is extremely well researched, concerns an aristocratic family (Dukes of Rutland), and introduces me to the beginning of WWI. The Dukes of Rutland still live at Belvoir(pronounced Beaver) Castle in Leicestershire. The Secret Rooms concerns the 9th Duke of Rutland, John, and his activity in these secret rooms where family archives were. The 9th Duke actually died in one of these rooms in April, 1940 attempting to finish whatever he thought he must. Then his heir ...more
Dec 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The world of the British upper ten thousand before the Great War seems so alien, so bizarre nowadays: the privileges they had! the houses! the wealth! the intrigues!
But that's what made their world so fascinating- a world that doesn't exist anymore even though it is relatively recent history.
Catherine Bailey's The Secret Rooms: A True Story of a Haunted Castle, a Plotting Duchess, and a Family Secret takes us right into the stately Belvoir Castle, residence of the Duke of Rutland. Not only int
Jan 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
WOW! This is one of my favorite types of books. I love stories that turn research into an adventure. It was one of the things I liked about "Possession" by A.S. Byatt. The whole time I was reading Possession, I kept wishing it was non-fiction. "The Secret Rooms" is my non-fiction research adventure.

I saw this book in Barnes and Noble. Another browser had left it in the Mystery section, so when I started looking it up, it took me a while to really clarify that it was non-fiction. I still wasn't
My only criticism and lack of a four star review would be the minutiae that could have benefitted from an editor's red pen. Keeping in mind this book is history, not historical fiction, that fault finding might be unwarranted. The story revolves around a highly dysfunctional English family, their home Belvoir Castle, World War I, and the machinations of a cruel and manipulative matriarch. Worth the read if you are an Anglophile.
Kirstin Mckee
Jan 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Such an amazing story. All true. After the Duke of Rutland dies his son locks his rooms behind him never to be opened. And when they are, what a story they tell! My family were totally neglected as I rushed to reach the end of this book.
Apr 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very interesting story of a secret deeply hidden but dug up by the author's determination to find what a duke spent his last days burying in the past. Bailey starts researching the annals of Belvoir, home of the Dukes of Rutland, to write a totally different story about the soldiers of WWI. Instead she finds an incredibly rich troves of letters and diaries in a room kept sealed up for 20 years. Correspondence from three very distinct periods is missing, and it's tally-ho, Bailey is on the hunt.

Nikki Morton
The first half of this book was very intriguing. The mystery surrounding the family's historical documents and the WWI setting was interesting, especially the bits of John's war diary.
But the second half began to drag quite a bit...the back and forth of the letters was a little slow, especially since the manipulation and reasons for it were pretty evident.
Still glad I picked this one up overall, though.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Book Giveaways: Giveaway 2 29 Jan 14, 2014 01:08AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife, and the Missing Corpse: An Extraordinary Edwardian Case of Deception and Intrigue
  • The Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings
  • The Show (Swell Valley #2)
  • Kick: The True Story of JFK's Sister and the Heir to Chatsworth
  • Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune
  • The Fens: Discovering England's Ancient Depths
  • Hitler’s British Traitors: The Secret History of Spies, Saboteurs and Fifth Columnists
  • Murder in the Storybook Cottage (Book Retreat Mysteries #6)
  • Behind Palace Doors: My True Adventures as the Queen Mother's Equerry
  • Witches, a tale of Scandal, Sorcery and Seduction
  • Haunted Plantations of the South
  • English Society in the 18th Century
  • Miss Julia's Marvelous Makeover (Miss Julia, #15)
  • Dear Blue Peter...: The Best Of 50 Years Of Letters To Britain's Favourite Children's Programme 1958 2008
  • Top 10 New York (DK Eyewitness Top 10 Travel Guide)
  • The Debs of Bletchley Park and Other Stories
  • Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey
  • When Rome Ruled Palestine
See similar books…
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Maker of successful television series and documentaries.


Related Articles

The prolific and beloved author John Grisham, known for his courtroom thrillers, is back this month with a new pageturner, A Time for Mercy,...
33 likes · 6 comments
“The closure of the rooms and the servants’ stories are pieces in the puzzle. Now it is necessary to step back to the true beginning of this story – the moment when I first entered these rooms, before I even knew they concealed a mystery.” 2 likes
“Writing to her from America, her best friend remarked, ‘I’ve stopped reading fiction, I just read about you.” 1 likes
More quotes…