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

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  815 ratings  ·  218 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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Julie Ehlers Goodreads is a social networking site, not a site that gives away free ebooks. This book isn't even out yet--when it comes out later this month you ca…moreGoodreads is a social networking site, not a site that gives away free ebooks. This book isn't even out yet--when it comes out later this month you can purchase it or get it from the library.(less)

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Average rating 3.92  · 
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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
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
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 (for us in the US!), while experiencing her own
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
I won this in a Goodreads Giveaway!! I haven’t won one in a very long time! I hope it’s good!
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
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
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
Maximilian Birner
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 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
Sep 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-crime, memoir
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 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 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
Jun 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was one of those books that you read a few pages, go about your day, then get a twinge of excitement remembering you have it there waiting for you to continue. I am not sure how to feel about the ending — but I think that is the the point.
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
Laura Tremaine
Nov 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was the first true crime I've read in awhile, and it was satisfying in a way that a book like I'll Be Gone In the Dark unfortunately couldn't be (since We Keep the Dead Close is also written by a woman who becomes obsessed with the case, but a killer is named BEFORE publication).

The way that Cooper structures the time jumps (and the slow reveals of various suspects) was very well done in such a complicated story that clearly wants to do justice to all players involved. However, I felt like
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
Oct 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book!

WE KEEP THE DEAD CLOSE does a really good job of combining a classic true crime story with an examination of the dark side of academia, and the oppression and misogyny that can be found within its circles. Cooper alternates the life of Jane Britton, the murder and the aftermath, and her own investigation into the crime years after the fact. The structure makes this a page turner, but it also brings up a lot of very important quest
Tyler V
Sep 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Leaving a rating without a review for a book that the author personally poured so much into felt like a disservice, so here's the review. This book is several stories in one; at the forefront is Jane's story but around it are satellite stories that are all fascinating in their own way; this includes Becky's story and relationship to Jane and her case.

I'm usually hesitant at the idea of an author inserting themselves into the narrative of the non-fiction story they choose to tell, but in this in
Jun 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I shy away from true crime books. There is enough in the world that haunts the news that I find myself avoiding it in my recreational reading. But after listening to the publisher's Book Buzz at ALA Virtual, I figured I needed to give it a try.


The case itself is full of twists and turns, Christie-esque in its ability to present evidence of guilt and innocence for every party. And the resolution is truly one I didn't see coming.

But the thing that I find most significant about this book is Coo
Cam Kovach
Aug 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As much a journey for the writer as it is for the reader, this book solves a murder but leaves us with many unanswered questions. "We Keep the Dead Close" challenges us to question our assumptions as well as the paths we use to get to those assumptions. Delving into the academic culture of Harvard, the misogyny of the 1960's and the burgeoning women's rights movement, the story follows several threads all of which have a significant impact on the life of Jane Britton, whose story is told with em ...more
Jul 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was a deeply riveting and thought-provoking 'true crime' work. The mystery itself, interesting and perplexing, is almost overshadowed by the author's exploration of how the crime was made a legendary cautious tale for women in academia. Additionally, the author explores her own interest and involvement with researching the crime in a way that is extremely original. This blend of true-crime, memoir, and narrative non-fiction is fantastic. Highly recommended!
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Heartfelt and heart-pounding.
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.
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
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
Nov 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even at a prestigious university such as Harvard, secrets, sordid affairs, and cover-ups can transpire. Author Becky Cooper investigates the unsolved 1969 murder of Jane Britton, a 23 year-old archeology graduate student, who is found bludgeoned to death in her apartment. This mystery, which reads like a whodunit, is for those who enjoy true-crime.
Liz Hein
Nov 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
We Keep the Dead Close is the best true crime I have read in a long time! I wish I could give half stars on here since it was close to 5 stars for me.

Jane Britton was murdered in her apartment while studying archaeology at Harvard. The way the her body is found leads people to believe her murderer was likely someone who knew her and knew a lot about her work. Jane had an affair with one of her married professors, could it be him? There are many suspects along the way and I was guessing the enti
Lizzie Hyde
Nov 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Becky Cooper researched with the best of em and wrote a convincing love letter to Jane Britton, trying to vindicate her along with every maligned woman of Harvard history. I was swept away in the story- an intelligent and heartfelt endeavor- but the conclusion brought me the uneasy feeling that either this story didn’t need to be told or the due diligence she had done up until the conclusion had suddenly been neglected. I won’t recommend it to my friends.
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“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 re-creation of a burial ritual. No one heard any screams; nothing was stolen. Decades passed, and her case remained unsolved. Unsolved, that is, until yesterday.” 0 likes
“The very things that made me love Harvard—its seductiveness, its limitlessness—also made it a very convincing villain. Harvard felt omnipotent.” 0 likes
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