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.