cover image An Unexplained Death: The True Story of a Body at the Belvedere

An Unexplained Death: The True Story of a Body at the Belvedere

Mikita Brottman. Holt, $28 (288p) ISBN 978-1-2501-6914-3

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. (Nov.)