2014: 21. The Secret Rooms


"Two doctors were already at the castle; a third, Lord Dawson, Physician to King George VI was expected."

The Secret Rooms: A True Story of A Haunted Castle, A Plotting Duchess, & A Family Secret, Catherine Bailey

Oh, I loved this one.  The writing isn't perfect, but the book is TOTALLY up my bailiwick, and I couldn't put it down.  I got it by chance, too.  We were in New York for a little two day vacation last week (where we saw Neil Patrick Harris play Hedwig and the Angry Inch - if you can, go.  Phenomenal), and I was bored by all the books I'd brought (and I brought a few, since we took Amtrak to get there).  Nothing caught my eye at Hudson Bookseller in D.C. (and the Barnes & Noble has been replaced by an H&M, depressingly enough).  But we were meeting Jon's parents for lunch at Grand Central, and while we were waiting for them to arrive we stopped by a wonderful little book store in the station (it is called Posman books and you should check it out).

Anyway, it's a real-life mystery.  The author was researching a book about the Great War,* as part of her efforts she was given access to the extensive, but rarely made public archives at Belvoir Castle, home of the Duke of Rutland.  While she is researching, she finds a gap in the archives - exactly during the time period she most wants to study - the time when the local regiment saw its worst action at Ypres.  Morever, she finds two other gaps in the archives - which sounds reasonable, until you find out that this family has saved everything - the gap is definitely deliberate.  And then she learns that the 9th Duke of Rutland actually died down the basement rooms in which she is working - instead of living in his luxurious rooms, he had been living in the archives, and it seems, died working on something until the very last minute.  

Her interest, naturally is piqued (as is ours) and the rest of the book explains how she worked out the mystery of what the Duke was so desperate to hide.  And its GREAT! It's slow to ramp up - the beginning part starts with the author trying to create the atmosphere of the basement rooms, and the Duke's last days and all that.  It's ok, but once she gets into the mystery and trying to solve it (and, it seems successfully doing so) the book kicks into gear.  I don't want to say more - the fun of the book is solving the puzzle along with the author, but I will say that the end is satisfying, and I think if you like real life mysteries, or World War I, or Downton Abbey-esque tales of Lords and Ladies, you'll like this.  Seriously, the 8th Duchess puts the Countess of Grantham to shame.

*One of my favorite subjects, so I'm already in.

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017