778027951_9780143124733_The_Secret_Rooms

The Secret Rooms are just that — large, separated and locked.  Bailey, a writer researching something else entirely, stumbles upon a tightly-held secret at Belvoir Castle.  The estate, which has been in the family for over five-centuries, was the setting for numerous pivotal events in British history.  It also had its fair share of dastardly deeds.

Bailey discovers that thousands of boxes, containing millions of memos, letters and documents, were moved to Belvoir from London at the outset of WWII.  The idea was that they would be safer housed at a quiet country estate than dodging the German invasion.

Nothing about that was terribly suspicious — lots of priceless or irreplaceable things were given temporary asylum in the country.  But most of them went back to London.  These didn’t.  Not only that, the Duke spent his final days and hours locked in with them and no one knew why.  Bailey attempts to unravel this bizarre behavior, and acts stemming from it, in hopes of finding a sensible reason for the subterfuge.

Bailey also tries to weave an element of the supernatural.

The ballroom staircase was the place the servants feared the most.  Sweeping down to the Guard Room two floors below, it was the main thoroughfare in the castle.  Family portraits of former dukes and duchesses, resplendent in ermine, adorned its walls.  The steps, of bare stone — framed by a wrought-iron balustrade, topped by a mahogany rail — were wide shallow.  ~Loc. 120 of 5619

Tracing the history of the family, Bailey also uncovers what John was doing in the rooms — or at least her best theory.  And she makes a good case for it.

At times the book veers off on a tangent.  Bailey is clearly very knowledgable in WWI history.  She knows her stuff and can write about it confidently.  But the section in the book that focuses on John service goes into far too much detail about battles and assignments and memos.  It seems that here, she has found a comfort zone and fills a number of chapters while in it.  The writing isn’t bad — it just is extraneous.

I do wish that Bailey had followed up with some of the vexing questions and interesting situations she puts forth.  She draws the setting of Belvoir Castle very well and even gives hints at haunting and ghosts.  But she never follows up on these stories.

In short, the book explores a fascinating topic, even if it wanders a bit at times.

Read via Edelweiss.

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ISBN 9780143124733
512 pages
31 Dec 2013
Penguin
5.59 x 8.42in | 18 – AND UP

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