The labyrinthine corridors of Baltimore’s Belvedere hotel hide secrets and stories. If the rooms could talk, they’d speak of illicit affairs, crimes gone wrong and suicides. A true crime writer like Mikita Brottman couldn’t ask for a more perfect place to live. But when a partly decomposed body is discovered on the 13th floor, she is drawn into a dangerous obsession ... An Unexplained Death is a compulsive exploration of the shadowy borders of our collective fascination with unsolved crimes. It also offers a fascinating glimpse into the darker history of a once majestic hotel. But the most important story it tells is about the interrelationship of death and memory, how we remember and memorialize our loved ones, and how we fear being forgotten after we die. In the end, Brottman’s exploration of Rey Rivera’s death is an act of narrative remembrance.
Brottman meticulously follows any and all threads she can, including a long and fascinating detour into the world of Agora, a somewhat sinister and extremely wealthy company Rivera worked for shortly before his death ... But Brottman's book is, sneakily, more than just a true crime narrative. It is also a history of the Belvedere and its long association with death ... [The book's] colorful stories often seem to have little to do with Rivera's death, and yet Brottman's confidence in dropping them in, seemingly at random, belies that they are not random at all ... The extremely human anxiety Brottman seems to be grappling with is one many of us may consider at one time or another: If we went missing, would anyone look for us?
In this page-turner, a mash-up of memoir and true crime, Brottman explores a mysterious death and her own psyche ... Events unfold in real time, adding an element of suspense (that, unfortunately, feels unfulfilled with the anticlimactic conclusion). This may disappoint those seeking straightforward true crime, but those who choose books with dark subject matter, suspense, and microhistory elements will all find something to enjoy here.
Brottman’s book goes deeper and deeper into the nature of suicide and it is way more fascinating than you might think ... Anyone who enjoys true crime is liable to enjoy the story behind Brottman’s search and Rivera’s death.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the case, even though Brottman isn’t an investigative journalist or a true crime writer. She acknowledges her shortcomings, explaining how her self-consciousness gets in the way of being a dogged reporter ... these asides are a reminder that this crime book is something wholly unique ... Brottman’s book encourages us to explore beyond our comfort zone, hinting at the possibility for significant discoveries.
What better place for a mystery than in an iconic old hotel such as the Baltimore Belvedere, which has recently been converted into condominiums? In this true recapitulation of an incident in which a decaying body was found on an upper floor of the hotel in 2006 ... The sloppy police investigation is detailed, and the question arises whether this death might have been a homicide, a suicide, or even conceivably an inexplicable accident. A lengthy discourse follows on the mental thinking of self-killers along with the history of past suicides that occurred at the Belvedere over the years. The topic is enthralling; however, the writing is tediously repetitious.
Brottman opens this compelling, often creepy book with a 'Missing' poster she spotted on her morning walk, asking for information about a strikingly handsome young man named Rey Rivera. His image stuck with her, and when his decomposing body was found in an unoccupied office in the building where Brottman lives, an obsession was born ... Mixing fascinating investigation and macabre memoir, this is a dark ride with substance.