FINALIST FOR THE J. ANTHONY LUKAS BOOK PRIZE
Named One of The Best Books of 2020 by NPR's Fresh Air * Publishers Weekly * Marie Claire * Redbook * Vogue * Kirkus Reviews * Book Riot * Bustle
A Recommended Book by The New York Times * The Washington Post * Publisher's Weekly * Kirkus Reviews* Booklist * The Boston Globe * Goodreads * Buzzfeed * Town & Country * Refinery29 * BookRiot * CrimeReads * Glamour * Popsugar * PureWow * Shondaland
Dive into a "tour de force of investigative reporting" (Ron Chernow): a "searching, atmospheric and ultimately entrancing" (Patrick Radden Keefe) true crime narrative of an unsolved 1969 murder at Harvard and an "exhilarating and seductive" (Ariel Levy) narrative of obsession and love for a girl who dreamt of rising among men.
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 twenty-three-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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Whoever said that the wheels of justice turn slowly wasn’t kidding. The brutal murder of Harvard grad student Jane Britton made headlines in 1969—but justice took half a century to catch up. It started when aspiring writer Becky Cooper became fascinated with the decades-old cold case while attending Harvard herself in the 2000s. Within a few years, Cooper had started working at The New Yorker, still obsessed with discovering the truth and better equipped than ever to do so. Cooper turns her years of research into one of the book’s most gripping threads, wading through dead ends, false rumors, and plenty of maddening victim-blaming attitudes. The more she finds out about Jane, the more she begins to identify with her. Cooper makes Jane Britton matter to us as a person, not a victim. And that makes We Keep the Dead Close—and the hunt for Jane’s killer—that much more gripping and visceral.
In this mesmerizing debut, former New Yorker staffer Cooper recounts her pursuit of justice for Jane Britton, a 23-year-old Harvard anthropology grad student who was murdered in her Cambridge, Mass., apartment in 1969. After Britton didn't show up for an exam, her boyfriend and Britton's neighbors found her bludgeoned body face-down on her bed. The red powder on the corpse suggested that her killer had conducted an ancient burial ritual and was someone with "an intimate knowledge of anthropology." The crime made headlines nationally, but despite multiple suspects, including a Harvard archaeology professor rumored to have had an affair with Britton, no one was charged. Cooper, who learned of the mystery in 2009 when she was a junior at Harvard, became obsessed with it and pursued leads pointing to a link between Britton's killing and a similar murder of a woman in Harvard Square committed a month later. Her dogged effort to access police files was the impetus for DNA testing that yielded proof of the killer's identity in 2018. Cooper does a superior job of alternating her present-day investigation with flashbacks depicting Britton's life and the initial police inquiries. In addition to presenting a tense narrative, she delves into the phenomenon and morality of true crime fandom. This twist-filled whodunit is a nonfiction page-turner. \n
Cooper writes well. But denouement sudden and rather disappointing. I guess that’s life.
If you want to know what happened to Jane Britton, do yourself a favor and google it. This goes on and on and on and on. The author cannot let go.
The story was so meandering with so many red herrings and with zero “pay off” in the end. A complete waste of time. Also it was annoying and narcissistic the way the author kept forcing herself into the narrative.