An Unexplained Death

The True Story of a Body at the Belvedere

“This is a learned, lucid, and finally heartbreaking account of urban obsession. It’s David Fincher’s film Zodiac crossed with accounts of Judge Crater’s disappearance crossed with Ms. Brottman’s wild take on the unknowability of life and the necessity of staying obsessed. Ms. Brottman is a groove–and so is her book.” –James Ellroy, author, L.A. Confidential, The Black Dahlia.

“Mesmerizing. A haunting meditation on the opacity of facts – how the who, what, when, and where always fail to plumb the abyss: the why. Brottman’s inquiry into the death of Rey Rivera turns into an 11-year hunt for revelation along the knife-edge of pathology. ” —Claudia Rowe, author, The Spider and the Fly: A Writer, A Murderer, and a Story of Obsession.

“Brottman’s An Unexplained Death is not just a thrilling whodunit, with new clues unfolding every chapter, it’s a beautifully written elegy about the mystery of death. By the end of the book, you’ll be just as fascinated by Brottman as you will be by her main character: the handsome and devoted Ray Rivera, who suddenly goes missing early on an Baltimore evening in spring. This is one riveting, heartbreaking read.” –Skip Hollandsworth, author, The Midnight Assassin: Panic, Scandal, and the Hunt for America’s First Serial Killer.

“Gripping, immersive, and beautifully written, with an unsettling juxtaposition of criminality and mundanity. Brottman blends tragic and gruesome details with an intelligent and refined touch.” –Henry Bond, photographer, author, Lacan at the Scene.

“There is a beautiful circuit between Brottman’s sense that people are constantly casually forgetting her, and her compulsion to devote a book to a person who is in a state of being forgotten.” — Alissa Bennett, curator and author, “Dead is Better.”

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.

“Idiosyncratic…poignant…When Brottman writes, she’s a virtuoso: poised and sure-footed, confident and graceful, witty and relaxed.” —Baltimore Sun