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We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence
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We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  6,279 ratings  ·  1,146 reviews
You have to remember, he reminded me, that Harvard is older than the U.S. government. You have to remember because Harvard doesn't let you forget.

1969: the height of counterculture and the year universities would seek to curb the unruly spectacle of student protest; the winter that Harvard University would begin the tumultuous process of merging with Radcliffe, its all-fem
Hardcover, 501 pages
Published November 10th 2020 by Grand Central Publishing
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Christine Whittington We don' really know what their motivation was for asking that.
We don' really know what their motivation was for asking that.

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Average rating 3.78  · 
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Will Byrnes
I’m here because, for the past ten years. I have been haunted by a murder that took place a few steps away. It was told to me my junior year of college like a ghost story: a young woman, a Harvard graduate student of archaeology, was bludgeoned to death in her off-campus apartment in January 1969. Her body was covered with fur blankets and the killer threw red ochre on her body, a perfect recreation of a burial ritual. No one heard any screams; nothing was stolen. Decades passed, and her case
Julie Ehlers
Aug 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
True crime is not usually my thing, so I was apprehensive when the ARC of We Keep the Dead Close turned up in my mailbox. It looked interesting, but would it be lurid and sensationalistic? Fortunately, the answer is a resounding "Nope!" This was like a 400-page New Yorker article, mind-bogglingly well researched and engrossing, with a painstaking amount of scene-setting that pulled me in and made the milieu of 1960s Harvard come alive, for better and for worse.

The ick factor I typically feel for
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
I won this in a Goodreads Giveaway!! I haven’t won one in a very long time!

I thought this was fantastic! Well, not the horrible things in the book or the things that triggered me to want to become a vigilante. The book was very well written!

I forgot how much I loved True Crime. I remember there used to be a True Life magazine back in the day. They still could for all I know!

Happy Reading!

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
Jeffrey Keeten
Oct 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
”She loved Kurt Vonnegut and often quoted him. ‘Peculiar travel suggestions are like dancing lessons from God,’ she would say, perhaps dreaming of digs in distant countries, though her favorite was from The Sirens of Titans: ‘I was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all.’”

Jane Britton was murdered in her Harvard apartment in January 1969. The circumstances were odd: her next door neighbors heard nothing; she was found on the bed with her head bashed, rugs thrown over her, a stone grave
Oct 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-crime
I fell in love with Jane, the protagonist of this real-life mystery. I identified with her, and she reminded of me of many women I know: gifted and hurt, self-destructive and brilliant, loving and alluring, and so alive.

The end of her story takes place at Harvard graduate school for archeology. In order to tell it, Becky, the author – and a sometimes character in the book – has to unearth the power dynamics and sexism of this old world institution, while experiencing her own version of these as
Elyse  Walters
read by the author ( ha, of course I think )
After ten years researching the life & murder of Jane Britton, (the archeology dept. and the institute of Harvard itself), no way would Becky Cooper let it fall into the hands of another voice narrator.

The investigation of the numerous characters became tedious. Lots of rambling narratives.
...Hours and days of audiobook listening —
I felt the ‘hooked’ elements- for awhile - but then my god....
I kept saying to myself — “this author is ob
Jan 11, 2021 marked it as dnf
Dnf. I enjoy true crime so went in expecting a straightforward case but instead the narrative is a lot about the author, sexism, and the culture in elite academia. Which is fine, but the title led me to expect something else entirely.

Also, the case was eventually solved using DNA technology, making the majority of the author’s “investigation” irrelevant.
Apr 17, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf, reviewed
DNF 49% and I read way past where I wish I had and more than enough to write a fair review.

In 1969 Jane Britton, a Ph.D. candidate in archeology at Radcliffe -- but her coursework and expeditions were at Harvard because the two schools had not yet merged -- was murdered violently in student housing. Her body, which was discovered after she didn't show up for an exam crucial to staying in the Ph.D. program, appeared to be posed in a ritualistic manner.

"...the culture of murder fan-girling made m
Jessica Woodbury
Writing a work of true crime that includes your own personal story is a risky proposition. I have seen it done very well and I have seen it done very very badly. I approach the subgenre with some skepticism because there needs to be a reason that you belong in this story that is more than the fact that you are the person who happens to be telling it. As a work of true crime, this is a very solid entry that wants to do right by everyone in it, victim and suspect and witness alike. As a work of me ...more
Katie B
3.5 stars

This true crime book featured a fascinating case but I thought the author inserted herself into the story more often than necessary. Stuff like her dating life or going to a bachelorette party was odd filler. I would have been completely fine if the author condensed her thoughts about how the case and victim related to her life and stuck it in the Author's Notes at the end of the book. It's not that I don't think her thoughts aren't worthy or interesting, but at some points it was feeli
Joey R.
Apr 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
4.0 stars — “We Keep the Dead Close” by Becky Cooper was a book I wanted to read after it was nominated for a Best Goodreads non-fiction award for 2020. The book is a very in-depth analysis of the murder investigation of a Harvard student, Jane Britton, in 1969. The author became interested in researching this case when she was a student at Harvard years later and was told the primary suspect in the murder was still a tenured professor at Harvard. The authors obsession with discovering every bit ...more
Angus McKeogh
Nov 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
Disappointing content and the wrong subtitle. Unfortunately 92% of this book must’ve been written before the DNA from the case was analyzed. This created a scenario where once the killer was revealed by DNA testing, the preceding 92% of the book was obsolete conjectures, rumors, and judgments made about academic faculty and staff who ended up having nothing to do with solving the case. It appears that the author was therefore sent on a quest of spinning the narrative to incorporate more of a “#m ...more
Sep 19, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: net-galley
True crime is a tough genre, since the author needs to be able to hold the reader's interest long enough to get them through the story, rather than immediately jumping to Wikipedia. It's also really, really tricky for an author to successfully weave their own experience of investigating the case into the case itself. Unfortunately, neither of those two tricky layups were made by Becky Cooper. The case is interesting on its head, particularly because of the "boys club" secret-keeping quality arou ...more
Johann (jobis89)
Jan 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
“The very things that made me love Harvard —its seductiveness, its limitlessness — also made it a very convincing villain. Harvard felt omnipotent.”

I started off my 2021 true crime reads with We Keep the Dead Close, a powerful memoir that delves into misogyny and murder. The misogyny in question is that which is found deeply rooted within the academic world, or specifically within the field of archaeology in Harvard, in this case. As someone within academia, I can’t say that anything I read in t
Nov 14, 2020 rated it did not like it
It’s wrong (both artistically and ethically) to use Jane Britton’s murder to lure readers into this mediocre memoir about the author. I doubt as many people would have picked this book up if it was sold as what it is (My Life at Harvard, by Becky Cooper), which makes the whole enterprise feel like the author standing on the murder victim and shouting for attention. It must have been difficult spending a decade on this case only to have the police solve it in a way that doesn’t dovetail with your ...more
Dec 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
I really, really loved how thoroughly researched and investigated this story was but also found it to be so compelling

Watch my full review:
Aug 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: giveaways
First off, I won this as a goodreads giveaway. Thank you Grand Central Publishing and Hachette Book Group.

This book is completely different from other books I have read in the True Crime Genre. It was a combination of a memoir and a True Crime narrative. Often, as readers, we forget how these cases effect the writers who are trying to make sense of them. In this book Becky Cooper writes about what was happening to her during her research. It makes you think how Ann Rule and other True Crime writ
Nov 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
4 Stars
Nov 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
It goes without saying, massive props to Becky Cooper for writing We Keep The Dead Close. This book deserves your money alone for how much effort you can visibly tell she put into it. For any other author, this book would be an absolute monster to write, but it simultaneously felt like Cooper was very passionate about what she was writing.

We Keep The Dead Close is a true crime/memoir book that explores the dark sides of the prestigious campus of Harvard and the murder of one of their students.
Oct 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020-arcs

Author and journalist, Becky Cooper, first heard about Jane Britton’s murder while she was a junior at Harvard in Cambridge, not far from that apartment where Jane met her death. However, when she heard it back in 2009, sitting in a park near the Charles River on a unseasonably warm, fall day, the teller seemed to be relating a Fable, more like a ghost-story meant to scare campers, than an event that actually took place. The girl was nameless in the story, the clues made to sound more eerie than
Nov 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
She was a myth. A legend. A cautionary tale. In 1969, a young woman, a gradate student at Harvard's department of archaeology, is found dead in her apartment, her body covered in red ochre as if in some ritualistic, prehistoric burial rite. There are the rumors. A professor, born into the Hapsburg dynasty, allegedly having an affair with the victim. A jealous woman. A meek boyfriend. A faculty member with a drinking problem. A fellow grad student who may have been involved in the disappearance o ...more
Nov 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Not since Ronan Farrow's book 'Catch & Kill' & Michelle McNamara's 'I'll Be Gone in the Dark" have I read a book so well-researched, positively captivating, & addictively all-consuming. Part-memoir, part true-crime/whodunit murder mystery that you will solve right along w/ the author, until the shocking end when the crime is solved. (Tip: Don't Google about the murder before hand or risk ruining the mystery for yourself.) Cooper's decade long obsession w/ Jane Britton & who murdered her is remin ...more
Tara Carberry
Aug 17, 2020 rated it did not like it
DNF halfway through. The details of the case hooked me in the first pages, but felt it dragged on and just lost me.
Sep 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, true-crime
I’ve been wary, and just generally sick, of the recent true crime/memoir trend of authors inserting themselves into narratives when they have nothing to do with the crime story they want to tell. So I approached this with caution. This book is exactly how it should be done though. Either do it this good, which obviously took a massive amount of work, or don’t do it all. Impeccable research, beautifully eloquent writing, and she did every facet of the story and its many players justice. The autho ...more
Nov 15, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
In similar fashion to In Cold Blood, "We Keep The Dead Close" is about the then-not-solved murder of Jane Britton and from that point on it's an analysis of gender inequality in academia, the power of a institution like Harvard, the construction of myths and gossip as a form of social control, among other sub-themes. In my reviews, I usually criticise the lack of depth in certain topics or the characters' background. Here it's the exact opposite: there is an inordinate ambition to include so muc ...more
MissBecka Gee

I won this through a Goodreads giveaway and initially was stoked to read it.
Within pages I had to get an audio copy because physically reading it made my brain hurt.
Boring and far too long for my taste.
***********Paperback compliments of Goodreads giveaway***********
Dec 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Story - 4.5/5
Narration - 5/5

This amazing true crime story was ostensibly about the murder of a Harvard student, possibly at the hands a professor, but what it really was about is sexual harassment.

Normally, I roll my eyes at any kind of -ism in my reading, because I'm just so over that crap, but in this case it was real and integral with the story so I actually learned something.

But then, when the case gets solved, her reaction is unbelievable and this was the most illuminating part of the stor
Nov 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 rounded up

True crime as a genre has experienced something of a resurgence in recent years, with all sorts of media (books, tv shows, movies, podcasts etc.) covering all manner of cases and crimes, recent and historic. But with this there has been increased criticism of the commodification of the topic for entertainment purposes, and subsequently a lack of respect afforded for victims, their families and those involved - even peripherally - in the crimes.

In light of all of this discourse some
Sarah at Sarah's Bookshelves
Literary true crime (The Devil in the White City, In Cold Blood, In the Garden of Good and Evil) is one of my favorite sub-genres and the good ones are rare finds! We Keep the Dead Close is part true crime, part memoir (Cooper shares her own story of investigating Jane’s death and the effect it had on her) and reminded me of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark in that way. It has a super atmospheric setting and Harvard feels like a romantic, yet sinister character. The story is full of intriguing, larger t ...more
Kelsey (Kelseylovesbooks)
Nov 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
This is a really tough one for me to review. We Keep the Dead Close is a compulsive read- I was sucked in from the start. The author does a great job of making you feel as though you know the victim, Jane Britton. Her personality and perseverance in a time when women did not always seek higher education is clear through the shared anecdotes.

Two things I struggled with were the number of people to try to keep track of (SO MANY) and how the story wraps up. Neither of these are the fault of the aut
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