An Unexplained Death is an obsessive investigation into a mysterious death at the Belvedere—a once-grand hotel—and a poignant, gripping meditation on suicide and voyeurism
“The poster is new. I notice it right away, taped to a utility pole. Beneath the word ‘Missing,’ printed in a bold, high-impact font, are two sepia-toned photographs of a man dressed in a bow tie and tux.”
Most people would keep walking. Maybe they’d pay a bit closer attention to the local news that evening. Mikita Brottman spent ten years sifting through the details of the missing man’s life and disappearance, and his purported suicide by jumping from the roof of her own apartment building, the Belvedere.
As Brottman delves into the murky circumstances surrounding Rey Rivera’s death—which begins to look more and more like a murder—she contemplates the nature of and motives behind suicide, and uncovers a haunting pattern of guests at the Belvedere, when it was still a historic hotel, taking their own lives on the premises. Finally, she fearlessly takes us to the edge of her own morbid curiosity and asks us to consider our own darker impulses and obsessions.
The 2006 death of handsome newlywed Rey O. Rivera serves as the focal point of this mesmerizing true crime account. Brottman (The Great Grisby) never met Rivera, but she lives in the Belvedere, an apartment complex in Baltimore where his body was found, and her morbid curiosity results in a decade-long obsessive, informal investigation of his death. Rivera was missing for over a week before his body was discovered in a locked office, having fallen through a hole in the roof of the building's extension. According to the autopsy report, which ruled the death a suicide, Rivera had jumped off the roof of the main building, creating the hole on impact. As Brottman looks into the case, she learns that the people in Rivera's life don't believe he killed himself he was about to start a family with his wife, made plans for the weekend just before disappearing, and showed no indication of depression. Her suspicions deepen when she learns the police report of his death has gone missing, as has the building's surveillance footage from the night of Rivera's death. In the end, Brottman hires a private investigator to aid in her quest for answers, and his conclusions end up being rather anticlimactic compared to the suspense of the author's investigation. In addition to the crime element, Brottman adds an alluring layer to the narrative by interrogating her own preoccupation with death and suicide. The result is a page-turning look at the darker impulses of the human psyche.