#BookReview We Keep the Dead Close by Becky Cooper @GrandCentralPub #WeKeeptheDeadClose #BeckyCooper #GrandCentralPub Title: We Keep the Dead Close

Author: Becky Cooper

Published by: Grand Central Publishing on Nov. 10, 2020

Pages: 501

Format: Hardcover

Source: Grand Central Publishing

Book Rating: 8.5/10

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-female sister school; and the year that Jane Britton, an ambitious 23-year-old graduate student in Harvard’s Anthropology Department and daughter of Radcliffe Vice President J. Boyd Britton, would be found bludgeoned to death in her Cambridge, Massachusetts apartment.

Forty years later, Becky Cooper, a curious undergrad, will hear the first whispers of the story. In the first telling the body was nameless. The story was this: a Harvard student had had an affair with her professor, and the professor had murdered her in the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology because she’d threatened to talk about the affair. Though the rumor proves false, the story that unfolds, one that Cooper will follow for ten years, is even more complex: a tale of gender inequality in academia, a “cowboy culture” among empowered male elites, the silencing effect of institutions, and our compulsion to rewrite the stories of female victims.

We Keep the Dead Close is a memoir of mirrors, misogyny, and murder. It is at once a rumination on the violence and oppression that rules our revered institutions, a ghost story reflecting one young woman’s past onto another’s present, and a love story for a girl who was lost to history.


Candid, descriptive, and informative!

We Keep the Dead Close is the honest, compelling tale of a senseless murder of a young graduate student in Harvard’s Anthropology department, Jane Britton, in early January 1969 and the author’s own thoughts, experiences, revelations, and obsession to unravel what truly happened.

The writing is rich and atmospheric.  And the novel is an extremely well researched, sincere tale of a crime with no quick, straightforward conclusion and one woman’s subsequent, complex, frustrating, neverending battle to find closure for those who loved her.

Overall, We Keep the Dead Close is, ultimately, a sensitive, exhaustive analysis and investigation of a 50-year-old cold case that includes valuable, insightful data into an iconic institution plagued by inequality, prejudice, and violence and a murder investigation riddled for years with gossip, innuendos, rumours, multiple suspects, suspicious actions, and little to no concrete evidence.


This novel is available now.

Pick up a copy from your favourite retailer or from one of the following links.





Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.


About Becky Cooper

Becky Cooper is a former New Yorker editorial staff member and Senior Fellow at Brandeis’s Schuster Institute for Investigative Reporting. Her undergraduate thesis, a literary biography of David Foster Wallace, won Harvard’s Hoopes Prize, the highest undergraduate award for research and writing. Research for this book was supported by the Fund for Investigative Journalism and the International Women’s Media Foundation’s Howard G. Buffett Fund for Women Journalists. She is also the author of Mapping Manhattan: A Love (and Sometimes Hate) Story in Maps by 75 New Yorkers (Abrams, 2013).

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