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

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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 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.


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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 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.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    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 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 remained unsolved. Unsolved, that is, until yesterday. ------------------------------------- “Every nation-state wants an important past,” Karl said. So, often the ruling parties will commission archaeologists. But sometimes the past the archaeologists find is not what the powers want them to find. In Becky Cooper’s gripping true-crime tale, We Keep the Dead Close, there are two mysteries at work. Who brutally murdered Jane Britton and why, and was Harvard University involved in covering up the murder? If so, did they know who the guilty party was? Becky Cooper – from the Boston Globe – photo by Becky Cooper Ok, so here is how I went about reading the book. In addition to entering into my review file the names of the suspects people connected to the crime, I also kept a running list of the questions I thought needed answering as the book moved along. Here is a sample from reading through page 32: Questions so far -----Was Jim H (Jane’s sort-of bf) at her door at 9a as reported by her friends and neighbors, the Mitchells? -----Where is Jim H now? -----Who were the two men dashing to a car at 12:30a as reported by neighbor Ravi? -----Why was Jane’s cat screaming at 8p, and if the place was effectively soundproof how did neighbor Carol Presser hear it? -----Sounds like the killer was left-handed, given the location of the fatal blow. -----What’s the deal with the red ochre sprinkled over Jane’s body? Jane Britton – image from Wikimedia I kept a separate list for the question of whether Harvard engaged in a coverup. In a book of over 400 pages you can see how this list might grow. And grow it did, even as I checked off many of the questions when they were answered. But that was one of the major joys of reading this, or, I guess, any true crime book, or fictional crime book for that matter. Seeing if what strikes the author, or the investigators, is also what strikes you, the reader, the rousing of our inner Sherlock. Aside from the mystery, the whodunit of the story, there is content in abundance. For example, how can an institution like Harvard at the very least appear to be involved in covering up a crime, and yet remain unaccountable. Maybe that is not so surprising given that, after lives of diverse forms of crime, the Trump family remains on the spacious side of prison bars. But still, there is, or at least should be, some shock value to this. Did Harvard leadership hide a capital crime, did Harvard obstruct justice for fifty years? Cooper looks at evidence suggesting that it did. Professor Karl Lamberg-Karlovsky was a prime suspect in Britton’s murder – image from the NY Post – grad students had accumulated a file on him. One of them died under questionable circumstances. As noted in the opening quote at top, Cooper had come across this story while an undergraduate at Radcliffe. The professor presumed most likely to have done the deed was still teaching at Harvard. Cooper graduated, moved on, was having a life, but the story stuck with her. Ten years after her undergrad days, she returned to the scene of the crime, as a graduate student, determined to find out the truth of Jane Britton’s death. The Dig team in Iran in 1968 - from West Hunter This is a journey very reminiscent of Michelle McNamara’s amazing I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, in which she helped track down the Golden State Killer. Could Cooper do the same? We follow her through the labyrinth of her investigation, talking with everyone who knew Jane at the time of her death, and then branching out to the people who knew the people who knew her. She keeps trying to get access to official police records, a remarkably difficult undertaking for such a cold case, even moreso as Massachusetts is one of the worst states in the nation on Freedom of Information access, and gets in touch with local and state investigators who were involved back then. Suspects get their time in the spotlight, then are replaced with others. Was it one of these, or maybe someone in Jane’s circle who was never thought of as a suspect, or maybe someone else entirely? Jane Britton and Ed Franquemont at their college graduation in 1967 - image from Town & Country – source: the Jane Britton Police File – Franquemont, an ex, was universally disliked by Jane’s friends. He may have been physically abusive to her But there is a whole lot more going on here than a procedural effort to unearth the truth in a nearly fifty-year-old cold case. There is a consideration of historical and all-too-contemporary gender discrimination issues at Harvard, a strong thread about story that permeates, and a subset of that, on rumor as a means of social control. Cooper documents decades of dismissive treatment of women, not just at Harvard, but in academia well beyond those ivied walls. This manifests in many ways. Women at Harvard in the 1970s learned to dress as sexlessly as possible in order to de-emphasize their gender, lest they be seen as less academically capable than their male clasamates. In the 1980s, women were ushered to positions in the university that were high on administrative duties and low in departmental influence. In 1994 Nancy Hopkins documented the bias against women, showing that only 8 percent of the science faculty at MIT were women, and even lower, 5 percent, at Harvard. In 2005 Hopkins confronted then Harvard president Larry Summers at a conference when he claimed that female under-representation in science faculties was the result of innate biological differences. In the twenty-teens, Associate Professor Kimberly Theidon, was active at Harvard speaking out about sex discrimination and sexual assault, faulting Harvard for its lagging sexual assault policy. When her concerns made it into The Crimson, Harvard’s newspaper, her tenure application, which had already been approved by the authorizing committee, was withdrawn. Behind-closed-door deliberations on tenure decisions shields Harvard from much-needed transparency. The tenure decision-making process “is an invitation to abuse,” Howard Georgi, a Harvard physicist who has served on tenure committees told Science magazine in 1999. “There’s no question this has affected women.” The whole notion for the book began, of course, with the story BC heard when she was a Radcliffe undergrad. The police withholding their information made the story of Jane’s death largely oral, and certainly unofficial. And we know from the game Telephone, how stories can change when passed along that way. The file kept by graduate students at Harvard about Karl, with so many elements poorly examined, if researched at all, made that a kind of urban legend. Everybody back at the time of her death had their own experience of Jane and BC tries to make sense of them, learn from their Rashomon-like views the truth of who Jane was. She presents to us a Jane Britton who is not just a body deprived of life, but a three-dimensional person, with a personality, a history, hopes, talents, complications, and ambitions. Jane Britton’s boyfriend, Jim Humphries, was also a possible suspect. – image from the NY Post - source: Jane Britton police file We construct history from the pieces that are available to us. Artifacts, physical objects, letters, photographs, newspaper reports, police reports, spaces that existed then that are still around today. Cooper pursues all she can find, but some will never be unearthed. Sometimes those pieces might lead in opposing directions. Sometimes the pieces might lead nowhere. Sometimes small pieces might hold large truths. Sometimes what seem large pieces hold little explanatory value. Which are the important shards? And which are just detritus? It takes persistence, sensitivity, intelligence, and creativity to make the story we construct of these pieces reflect the truth of the person, the event, or the time we are attempting to describe. Karl Lamberg-Karlovsky’s claim to fame, for example, was not the high academic achievement of his field research. It was his ability to transform the bits he found into a compelling tale. And what about the missing puzzle pieces, the police reports that were kept hidden, the people there in 1968 and 1969 who had died? We can never really know all there is to know. But hopefully we can, with the evidence we are able to gather, get close enough. Richard Michael (Mike) Gramly (many years later, obviously) not only knew Jane at the time of her death, but was also on an expedition when another young woman vanished mysteriously – he was known to have serious anger issues There were rumors bouncing around Jane and her death like neutrons in a nuclear reactor. Many of the people with whom Cooper spoke had a favorite suspect they believed guilty of the crime, offering what they knew or, maybe, had heard or suspected as supporting evidence. Did Ed Franquemont beat her? Was Mike Gramly guilty of maybe two killings? Did Jane have an affair with Karl in Iran? Did Jane threaten to expose a professional lie Karl had told? Did she blackmail him to gain an advantage in her exams, and a place on the next dig? Was Karl a plagiarist? Was Karl a murderer? Did rumors surround him because of his arrogance or because he might be guilty? How about Lee Parsons [sorry, I was unable to find a photo, but Lee is a prime suspect]? Something happened between Lee and Jane at a notorious “Incense Party” at his place. But what? Did Lee confess to killing Jane many years later? In Cooper’s investigative travels she crosses paths with an expert in such things. As I thought more about [medical anthropologist] Mel [Konner]’s assertion that the rumors were a form of punishment, I found myself reading scholarly work on the social functions of gossip. I eventually worked my way to Chris Boehm, a former classmate of Jane’s who’s studied how gossip works in small-scale societies. He had, in fact, used Jane’s murder as an example in his paper about gossip as a form of social control. According to Boehm, social groups necessarily have a certain amount of “leakiness“ built in. These are the whisper networks; these are the stories that get swapped in the field and passed quietly between graduate students. Their job is to limit outlier behavior and to keep members of the community safe when what can be said out loud is constrained. Gossip, in other words, is punishment for people who move outside the norms. There is so much going on here, and it is so accessibly presented that you will be rewarded with much more than the knowledge of who killed Jane Britton. You will learn a lot about Harvard, how academia treats women, how gossip works in the world, and how one might go about solving a very cold case. You may or may not want to read this book in the somewhat OCD manner I pursued, focusing on solving the mystery. That way does add considerably to the reading time, as well as the filling feeling one gets from such activities. But whether you dust off each piece of information as it emerges, or speed through Cooper’s excavation on a mud-spattered Jeep, you will be well rewarded. Once you dig out We Keep the Dead Close from your bookseller’s shelves, you will definitely want to keep it close until you finish reading, exploring, and learning. This is an expedition well worth signing up for. …the act of interpretation molds the facts in service of the storyteller. I have been burned enough times to know. There are no true stories; there are only facts, and the stories we tell ourselves about those facts. Review posted – January 8, 2021 Publication date – November 10, 2020 I received a copy of the book from Grand Central in return for an honest review, or at least, as honest a review as might be possible given the materials I was able to excavate. Thanks, folks. And thanks to MC. You know who you are. ==========In the summer of 2019 GR reduced the allowable review size by 25%, from 20,000 to 15,000 characters. In order to accommodate the text beyond that I have moved it to the comments section directly below.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ”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 ”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 object at her head, and red ochre thrown upon her body in a circle. There were many rumors surrounding Jane. She was a liberated and spirited woman, who was thought to be promiscuous. There was talk of an affair with a professor. She had friends among the grad students who were odd ducks. One was connected to the disappearance of another woman. There were a plethora of candidates who might have killed her. The motive was murky. Becky Cooper first heard about her when she was told the story of her death. A story wrapped in half-truths, but one of those stories that becomes a cautionary tale to women. Who killed Jane Britton? It would go unsolved for fifty years. The rumors placed one professor in the frame. Archaeology Professor Clifford Charles Lamberg-Karlovsky found an important archaeological site in Iran, but it wasn’t just the find that made him a minor celebrity at Harvard, but also his ability to spin a story. He didn’t just tell you what happened; he brought all the possibilities vividly to life. He was tall and dashing and was Indiana Jones long before Indiana Jones existed in the mind of Lawrence Kasdan and Steven Spielberg. ”Karl emerged as a complicated, mercurial man: brilliant, imposing, hot-tempered, ambitious, inspiring, flamboyant, charismatic, exploitative, even paranoid. Some knew to stay away from him, some admired his charisma. But one way or another, he inspired intense reactions.” Karl was the type of person that people want to be guilty. ”The students detested Professor Karkov with a vividness and clarity of feeling that, in the young, is rarely reasonable, and yet not always wrong. Their arrogant tribunal of the spirit pronounced him unattractive, cowardly, dishonorable, disloyal, callous, self-elevating, hypocritical, calculating--guilty in general of conduct unbecoming a young professor.” What was interesting for me was the slight differences in the description of Karl by the author and then the descriptive terms used by the students. One painted a picture of a man who had some redeeming qualities, but the other painted a picture of a man who should be drummed out of academia. Jane butted heads with him. She had a strong personality. I could see him being a puzzle piece that she might be thinking about how he would fit into the chaotic puzzle of her life. He could help her. He could destroy her. She might fuck him, but she certainly wouldn’t like it if he fucked her over. She was certainly the type of woman who would have no qualms about ruining a man’s career. Becky Cooper was soon consumed with the story of Jane. There were certainly more questions than answers, and over the distance of time, facts had been modified to tell a better story. ”I laughed out loud at her fifty-year-old jokes. I started writing my own emails like her. It felt a lot like love--a confusing mix of admiring her, devouring her, inhabiting her, emulating her, channelling her, and thinking I was her.” Whose face was in the mirror, Becky? Yours or Jane’s? Jane was the type of friend you rarely found in real life, but of course, the dead could be shaped into who we wanted them to be. Cooper didn’t shy away from self-reflection. ”I attributed the depth of my feelings to the natural process for a biographer. Breathing life into someone on the page was an act of both resurrection and transubstantiation: I wrote them by learning about them, then by holding them inside me, then by feeling for them. By the end, I’d become their host, so of course I would forget where they ended, and I started.” It was a dangerous thing to become obsessed. It could crater every other relationship you try to have, but at the same time, I kept thinking to myself, Everyone needs something to obsess about. Hopefully, not something all-consuming, but something that adds a layer of mystery or something that enlarges your life. Cooper weaved in some of the sexist history of the Harvard archaeology department. She shared some staggering numbers, like that 87% of the grads who washed out of the program were women. 70% of the women were sexually harassed or assaulted on digs, and 40% of the men. How many red flags did a university need to know there was something wrong? I pondered whether sharing these stories of some of these women went beyond the bounds of the intention of the book. After all, this was a true crime murder mystery, not a sexism expose, but I found myself frequently raising my wife’s blood pressure when I shared some of the stories and statistics with her. Cooper also expanded the parameters of sexist behavior for me, revealing things that were so self-evident in retrospect, but would have been difficult for me to fully grasp when I was managing companies. All of this did relate to Jane because it showed us the environment she was trying to navigate as a female archaeological grad student. Even if she’d lived, would she have been doomed to fail? So we had several suspects beyond just the villain Karl, and Cooper chased each of them to ground, building cases for motive and exploring the stranger aspects of their personalities. ”I looked back at where I started. How quickly everything became a giant puzzle, a world of secrets, where every fact had a double meaning and everyone seemed to have a secret life. The speculative quicksand on which my story was based seemed so limitless that sometimes I had to remind myself that Jane did die and someone did kill her.” I could see that Jane, through her sparse correspondence, came back to life in Cooper’s mind. Someone might have needed to gently shake Cooper at some point and remind her that Jane was fifty years dead. I could see her blinking for a moment, uncomprehending, and then mourning her death as if it had just happened. The historian H. W. Brands confessed that, as he wrote about Abraham Lincoln dying, he had tears streaming down his face. The moment was as real for him as it would have been for a weeping Lincoln supporter in 1865. This book drives the reader forward relentlessly. It flips between chapters focusing on Jane Britton and the people surrounding her and Cooper’s investigation and her relationships with the remaining people who were connected to the murder. The resolution is a gut punch. My mind still touches on the reveal and steps back. The truth doesn’t always set you free. Sometimes it bogs you down in disbelief. I do wonder, now that Jane has been laid to rest, how will Becky Cooper fulfill herself going forward? If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten and an Instagram account https://www.instagram.com/jeffreykeeten/

  3. 5 out of 5

    Julie Ehlers

    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 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 true crime writing, I realized, comes when there's a level of focus on the killer that's almost idealizing, as if murders are just a by-product of their fascinating personalities. We Keep the Dead Close avoids that particular pitfall by concentrating as much on the victim and the time and place as on the potential killer(s). And given that there's more than one suspect, all of them literally suspected by multiple people in the Harvard/archaeology community, delving into their psyches felt necessary to the process of figuring out who did it. Because that's the other thing about this book: When Cooper started writing it, the murder was unsolved, so although the death isn't trivialized in any way, the book had a page-turning quality for me, born of the desperate need for justice to be served. Because of this, I recommend NOT googling this murder before you start reading. Let yourself find out as the author does, with the full weight of her research behind you. And speaking of the author: Cooper was obsessed with this murder for years, and she does spend some time addressing her own issues that led to this obsession. This feels necessary to the larger story, but at the same time Cooper understands that no one is really here to listen to her talk about herself, and she does an impressive job of balancing it with all the other angles she covers. Really, she juggles so many different elements in this book that it's amazing it works as well as it does. It's true that all the research did make the book feel a bit long at times, so if I'd written this review immediately after finishing, I might have rounded my 4.5 stars down to 4. But nearly a week later, I remain thoroughly impressed with everything this haunting book accomplished, so I'm rounding up. Recommended! I won this ARC in a Shelf Awareness giveaway; thank you to the publisher. My opinions, as always, are my own.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    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 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 she investigates. There are 3 worthwhile suspects to research. Becky learns the folklore, hunts down documentation, and interviews those who are still alive in what feels like real-time. We learn bits of each as Becky does, and are given intimate and complex character studies that really paint a picture of an influential institution in a particular time and place (1968-77, mostly). I learned a little about the world of archeology – the people love what they do, and it’s infectious. The study of earlier people as a peek into human nature and development has its own cast of characters, each with their own role, yet threaded together by something fundamental. And I learned how they viewed and therefore treated women, how they vied for power and influence, how they protected each other, and how they could betray. That power and betrayal extends to other trusted institutions, like the police. This book was started in 2018, so it’s through a certain lens, but that’s part of the fun – to look at this old case (from January 1969) through new eyes. What I loved most about the book was how intimate a portrait it was of what it could be like to live as a young woman in that time and place. I really felt transported there. And yet the horror of her murder didn’t hit me until the end. There were some gruesome details at the start, but I didn’t know the people yet. The violence took on a different hue after I spent such personal time with them. I do have to say that the solve (they do solve it) was less exciting than the exploration, even though it does open up another line of worthwhile inquiry. There's a goodreads giveaway for this engrossing read. Thanks to Grand Central Publishing and Barnes & Noble for the ARC.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Audiobook.... 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 Audiobook.... 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 obsessed, maybe ‘possessed’!!! Was it necessary for us - the readers - to be included with the authors research work about every single person she questioned over & over again? The problem I have with true crime procedural investigations in general - is often the repetitiveness is rampant- Becky Cooper proved my point. “We Keep The Dead Close”, was a reminder that even brilliantly meticulous details - [every nook & cranny of the crime], is not worth my time. I’d rather read the ‘short version’.

  6. 5 out of 5

    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!

  7. 4 out of 5

    JanB

    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.

  8. 5 out of 5

    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 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 feeling like a half-memoir/half-true crime read. In 1969, Jane Britton was a graduate student in Harvard's Anthropology Department. She was found bludgeoned to death in her apartment and her case remained unsolved for almost 50 years. One of the more popular rumors was a married professor killed her after she threatened to expose their affair. The author of this book, Becky Cooper, became interested in the case while she was an undergrad at Harvard and spent 10 years trying to uncover the truth about who killed Jane. In 2018, the world finally got some answers as this decades old cold case was deemed solved. By far the strength of this true crime book is it reads like a whodunit mystery. There's more than one suspect and just as I would start to get a feel for what I think happened, the author would shift gears and present other information about the case. I've read many true crime books over the years, and it's pretty rare to not know who the killer is until the very end of the book. The pace was a little slow at times but it's worth sticking around to find out the resolution of the case. The author spent many years researching the murder of Jane and in some parts of the book it was confusing trying to figure out the timeline for when she was interviewing people or gathering info. The execution of the book might not have been the best, but I do recommend checking this one out if you are a fan of the true crime genre. I won an advance copy of this book in a giveaway by Novel Suspects and Grand Central Publishing. All views expressed are my honest opinion.

  9. 5 out of 5

    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 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 memoir, though, it's lacking. It's clear that Cooper sees her emotional entanglement in the case she's investigating as worthy of consideration. And I agree with her that it is (the way women in particular tend to become obsessed by stories of true crime where they are similar to the victims is discussed in the book SAVAGE APPETITES and I think we have so much more to explore there) but Cooper never fully brings us into the depths of her obsession in a way that makes it or her come alive to us. Generally I found this a strong piece of reporting and that Cooper really understands the way it tells us something about academia generally and Harvard specifically, about archaeology generally and this department specifically, about gender dynamics generally and these relationships specifically. I wondered if she'd talked to every single archaeologist of a certain generation by the time she was done with her reporting. I also appreciated the way she tied other stories together, though there are some strange absences. (Another similar murder committed nearby of a woman of similar age just a month later is mentioned several times but not given any of the same detail she gives to several other possible crimes and incidents. There is some definite weirdness happening in the investigation and it's clear that that's part of why the crime wasn't solved but that's also mostly neglected.) To the extent that Cooper involves herself in the story to tell us about the logistics of the reporting, everything works. When she tries to go past that, the book flounders. It starts to feel like more of a stunt than anything at times, including the weeks Cooper spends on an archaeological dig herself, which she only spends a few pages on and it's unclear how they contribute to her understanding of the narrative. Cooper tells us she is getting lost in the story, that she feels connected to Jane, but besides the fact that they were both white women at Harvard with the same hair color, we don't really understand why and she never opens up enough for it to make sense. My one major critique of the true crime elements are that Cooper stops short and doesn't take her conclusions far enough. She has such interesting theses here, but then drops them flat when the story starts to get tied up. (This is not a spoiler, we know very early that law enforcement eventually identifies the killer while Cooper is writing the book.) All the questions she's considering about the way men in archaeology prey upon and disregard women, which have been laid out to us for much of the book, disappear in a fog. Her jumping-around structure has built a significant amount of tension and she's introduced suspect after suspect to us. To me, the arguments she's built here mean something outside of who killed Jane. The fact that people point her in so many directions, that they are able to identify so many men in Jane's orbit that could have killed her, that alone is worth really examining. Even more than that, what does it mean that all it took was a handful of negative traits for so many people to be convinced it was one man or another? And why is it that everyone was satisfied to take their criticisms of these men to sensational rumor rather than doing LITERALLY ANYTHING to remove them from their positions or to change the system they operated in? By the end of the book there was so much more I wanted to dive into, but Cooper seemed to feel like everything was closing off instead of opening up and I definitely disagree with her. To me, it showed how she was perhaps too involved in the narrative to be able to see these things more clearly. Instead Cooper seems to get totally thrown by the closing of the case, she loses her narratives entirely and the end of the book flounders. I think most true crime readers will find this very satisfying and like it much more than I did. (Like I said, I can be a real skeptic of the genre.) The way Cooper bounces around in the investigation, saving reveals like a novelist, gives the book a real momentum. It takes effort to not just google it and find out who the killer is when you know that the crime eventually gets solved and you realize she's going to make you wait until the end to find out. It's an effective pageturner, but I think there's some unrealized potential.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    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 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 me deeply uncomfortable." Though she wrote that, I never sensed the least bit of discomfort on the part of Becky Cooper. She was indeed murder fan-girling, spending years marinating in a 1969 murder and writing a book that contains insinuations, misleading, deceptive, extraneous and what turns out to be utterly irrelevant information. Becky Cooper left a non-writing job at The New Yorker to exhaustively research this case in hopes of solving it, traveling, speaking to dozens of people, reading every police interview she was permitted to see, going so far as to audit an archeology class taught by one of Jane's professors. She was indeed obsessed. The book goes into what was for me excessive detail about many professors, students, and workers in the archeology department, at the Peabody Museum, on archeology digs -- even ones Jane was not on -- boyfriends, friends, neighbors. I started wondering if she meant to interview everyone who has ever walked through Harvard Square . Throughout she implicates different people, particularly focusing on one professor, then the boyfriend, then another professor, then some other guy as I was deciding to DNF because -- STOP THE PRESSES! -- in 2018 the actual murderer was found via DNA. He didn't know Jane Britton. It was a random murder by someone who had raped and killed before. He died in 2001. There was no ritualistic posing. He may never have known her name and given his history probably didn't care. So why weren't the presses stopped? I can't work that out. Perhaps Becky Cooper is well-connected, perhaps the publishers lost their minds. I'm baffled that this book of well over 400 pages was galleyed and published despite the fact that the case had been solved at least two years earlier, all of her information related to the murder is extraneous and, in the case of her casting suspicion, offensive, and it's written as if she doesn't know and definitely doesn't want the reader to know that. In the rest of what I slogged through in We Keep the Dead Close, Cooper writes about her life, her thoughts, this boyfriend, the next boyfriend, possibly her navel. It's all quite pedestrian. Then there are her thoughts on Jane Britton, her relating to Jane Britton, empathizing with Jane Britton, blah blah. If she had turned her copious research into a history of sexism and misogyny at Harvard's archeology department or a history of Radcliffe or the Peabody Museum, some of her long years of research would have been salvageable. Perhaps she could have focused on various archeological expeditions over the years and changing attitudes towards women in the field. It would not have been the book she set out to write but she might have shaped the material into something interesting. Instead this book presents a series of assumptions, guesses, details, photographs of various humans and a general info dump on Jane Britton including her sex life and social life and that of other people's in her orbit, people's marriages -- when none of it mattered and she and everyone involved the book knew this and chose to go forward anyway. She goes so far as to obtain the archives of a retired professor and soon a few doodles on his notes become something dark hinted at. You can see a page reproduced in the book. That a male archeology professor's doodles have stylized drawings of tongues about to lick boobs along with some stylized figures is -- pardon me while I yawn -- not even interesting, let alone evidence. While inserting her own life at every opportunity she identifies with Jane Britton in contrived ways, even reading into a photo from 1969 that she seems to think is Jane communicating with her down through the years. It began to seem creepy. "I realized we were sitting in the same park where I had heard about Jane for the first time. I felt the echo and wondered if this story was particularly laced with coincidences, or if I desired them so much I made them." For me it was a journey to nowhere and I could only travel with her halfway. I became so frustrated by the net of suspicion she casts and bored by her dull prose that I went to Wikipedia to find out who did it -- and was surprised and dismayed to learn he wasn't connected to any of what I'd read. That's when I DNF'd. Case closed, book closed.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Johann (jobis89)

    “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 “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 this book surprised me. As for the murder, Becky Cooper investigates the death of Jane Britton, a young graduate student at Harvard who was found bludgeoned to death in her apartment in 1969. If you have any interest at all in reading this book, DO NOT google the case. You need to go through the same journey that Cooper does, diving into her theories and suspects, experiencing the twists and turns. It’s a slow book, heavy with details - which I honestly love in a true crime book - but you’ll come to care so much for Jane that you’ll need to know what happened to her. Cooper excels at immersing you in the murky world of Harvard with all its players and suspects, which I obviously lapped up. I loved that this was more than just a true crime book - reading about the oppression and misogyny that women face in Harvard (and beyond) is infuriating, but it all serves Jane’s story so well. Cooper’s obsession with the murder and the fact it pretty much took over her life reminded me of Michelle McNamara’s own obsession with The Golden State Killer. I’m a little in awe of these women as they sift through stacks of evidence and perform their own investigations. Their dedication and commitment is inspiring. We Keep the Dead Close has set the precedence for all the true crime books I’ll read this year! I’ll be very happy if they’re all as well-researched and wonderfully written as this was. 4 stars.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Angus McKeogh

    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 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 “#metoo” flavor about policies at Harvard. While that’s all well and good, that’s not what the book was supposed to be about and again really had no bearing on the murder mystery. Can’t say I’d recommend this book to anyone else.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rincey

    I really, really loved how thoroughly researched and investigated this story was but also found it to be so compelling Watch my full review: https://youtu.be/0yKBYt6CIVo I really, really loved how thoroughly researched and investigated this story was but also found it to be so compelling Watch my full review: https://youtu.be/0yKBYt6CIVo

  14. 5 out of 5

    Becca

    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 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 around Harvard in the '70s. Unfortunately, Cooper's own story is less interesting. It feels like a lot of pontificating about what it's like to be at Harvard, which to me (and maybe I'm alone) is incredibly irritating. I'm still not exactly sure why Cooper cares so much about Jane, and I often lost the thread throughout the book about how exactly she was "investigating." Ultimately, this was one of the books that led me to Wikipedia fairly early on-- the suspense, the caring about what happened, the depth of understanding just wasn't there.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    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 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 work—especially when your work is navel-gazing—but it makes the book seem irrelevant. Perhaps if the writing was stronger it wouldn’t have mattered?

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tooter

    4 Stars

  17. 5 out of 5

    Quirkyreader

    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 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 writers dealt with what they were experiencing. I hope that more writers follow Ms. Cooper’s example. Try and find this one when it comes out.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Max

    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. 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. Wow, what a concept! You will be researching this case head to toe, be basically best friends with all of the suspects, and be eerily disturbed as you remind yourself that this is all a true account. Only second to the masterful researching, my favorite aspect of this novel was how flawlessly it could tell the story of a real murder while also feeling like you are reading fiction. While I have seen others reviews saying the anecdotal chapters take away from the book, I think it was put to great use in terms of pacing and keeping me interested throughout the more "dense" sections. And before y'all come at me I do know that true crime can't have the perfect murder-mystery/whodunit/shocking twist ending that all of the other books I've read have, but I'm nonetheless interested in future revelations in regards to Jane Britton's murder. Sign me up for whatever that one true crime investigation forum for people that have read the book! For readers possibly trying to cross the line a little bit of what they usually read, We Keep The Dead Close is a perfect read to keep you theorizing... because I definitely have my suspicions...

  19. 4 out of 5

    Toni

    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 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 they probably were, with other vague facts. Becky only recalled the year, 1969, so long ago, yet still unsolved; “why,” Becky thought. She also thought, she wanted to know more, after all, the girl was 23 years old at the time, so close to Becky’s age. What Becky did not know as she sat in the park that day with her friends, is that she would become enmeshed with this woman’s story, almost obsessed, trying to find the answers for the next ten years. It was now easy to discover the actual facts about the murder of Jane Britton, 23 years, a Harvard graduate student in archeology at the nearby Peabody Museum and Archeology college. It was a sensational case back in January 1969, so it not only made it into local newspapers but went out on the national wires, such as AP (associated press). But it did not seem to stay there for awfully long, since the Cambridge Police Department never came up with any clear-cut suspects, so there was never any large trial. It seemed to Becky to just drift into ‘cold case’ status without anyone making a fuss. Here it was, forty years later, with some of the people, professors, formers classmates of Jane, even relatives of some of the police department, still around the general area. Becky could not resist her natural, journalistic, curiosities. Maybe she will just look around. I will not attempt to take you through a long list of everyone Becky talked to, nor the chronological timeline. Suffice it to say, ‘she left no stone unturned.’ When she found a lead on a possible suspect, with reliable support to back up the claims, she investigated until she got her conclusion. Unfortunately, most of the time, what seemed valid turned into empty suspicions; but she needed to confirm it one way or another before she could check it off the list. The number of men who seemed to be valid suspects were numerous. Jane was intelligent, popular, and attractive. She had gone on several ‘digs’ with the college, the most important one in Iran for weeks, with the supposed professor she was rumored to be having an affair with. It turns out that the professor’s wife was also on that trip, as was Jane’s current boyfriend. So, there is that. The Cambridge Police Department research Becky uncovered showed there were some mistakes made during the initial investigation of the murder site, i.e. Jane’s apartment, items in her home, entrances and exits, and lack of fingerprints. DNA testing was not available in 1969 but would prove valuable much later on. Interestingly, the current police chief there was the son of the detective who led the Britton investigation in 1969. Although he seemed cooperative, he was not forthcoming with information, and was reluctant to arrange a meeting with Becky and his father. After reading this book, I now understand why it took Becky Cooper nearly ten years to complete her research, get the cold case of Jane Britton reopened and resolved, and to finish writing her book. She did not have the advantage of computers, at least as we do today. If any of the files, photos or documents were not digitized and put into computer files she needed to follow a paper chase. The same is true of people, if their information were not available or updated, word-of-mouth, letters, sometimes phone calls to many people would take months. And lastly, cooperation. Becky had to convince some people to talk to her, call her back and share what they knew or might remember. And then there is the so-called, ‘red-tape’ associated with bureaucracy and government information. Fortunately, Jane’s brother Don was an enormous help. This is a long book with many necessary details. Becky Cooper has done a stellar job in organizing, researching, and writing about the murder of a 23-year-old graduate student at Harvard, in 1969. Do not attempt to read this work of nonfiction if you are not in it for the long-haul. One review I read said, that the person ‘got so impatient she went to Wikipedia!’ Do Not Do That. Sure, you will get an answer, but trust me, it will not make any sense. You must know the whole story. It makes Jane Britton’s life count, and Becky Cooper’s work count as well, in my opinion. The last item I will leave you with is to notice the mind-set of 1969 and most of the 1970’s about women in academia, as a murder and/or rape victim, a student, a person to be taken seriously. The second-tier standard of women at this time and before, screams from this book. Think about this: the Title IX clause of Federal Education Amendments was not signed until June of 1972. I repeat 1972! I use that as a true example of what times were like back then. Also, I was there, finishing my college education and entering corporate America. It was real and true. Please read every word of this book, it is about true crime, but it is also a snapshot of a time in our country where women were once again, trying to be heard. Thank you Netgalley, Grand Central Publishing, and most of all, to BECKY COOPER

  20. 5 out of 5

    abby

    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 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 of another young woman. A string of suspicious ex boyfriends. The archaeology community at Harvard looked at each other with suspicion and spoke out in hushed whispers. The department circled the wagons and kept silent. For women, already feeling second class in academia, it seemed like just another example of Harvard protecting it's (male) own. It was easy to forget that she was a person. Her name was Jane Britton and she was murdered on the morning of January 7, 1969. She was an artist, an adventurer and passionate about archaeology. And for fifty years, her murder went unsolved. Decades after Jane's death, Harvard undergraduate Becky Cooper became entranced with the mythology surrounding her death. A decade of obsession resulted in this book-- and perhaps the case finally being solved. Jane Britton has finally gotten justice. Like many true crime writers of late, Cooper inserts herself into the story. It seems writers are now obligated to be "obsessed" with their subjects. I've seen it done worse (*cough* James Renner *cough*). This book is well written but exceedingly long with an endless cast of characters that many readers will struggle to keep straight (guilty). It's a slow, methodical read and I was half way through before I achieved any rhythm with the writing. An honest editor and a pair of scissors would have benefited this book greatly. The ending also has the potential to be very dissatisfying. I put the book down at 80% complete, when the killer is revealed, thinking "wait, why am I reading this again?" Cooper, too, seems disappointed, although perhaps for a different reason (view spoiler)[she seemed quite angry the killer was black (hide spoiler)] . When it comes down to it, true crime is not my preferred genre. For those who are fans, this is expertly written and contains lots of twists and turns.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mom_Loves_Reading

    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 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 reminiscent of McNamara's fixation on the Golden State Killer. 'We Keep the Dead Close' is fascinatingly informative, hypnotically engaging, & vividly atmospheric.True crime fans will love this comprehensive & twisty tale. (See Instagram post for a giveaway & my blog for even more links & photos. Info in my bio.)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tara Carberry

    DNF halfway through. The details of the case hooked me in the first pages, but felt it dragged on and just lost me.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rennie

    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 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 author says she spent around a decade of her life pursuing this and figuring out how to tell it and it shows. This was both page-turningly compelling and very meaningful in its attention to bigger societal issues than merely “let’s gawk at this terrible story.” Don’t google the case before reading it, by the way. Seriously, don’t. The way this unfolds, and following along as she learns things herself and how meticulously she’s structured that is a reading experience that doesn’t happen like this very often.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sabrina

    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 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 much detailed information that it ends up losing its way in a tangle of meaningless people and themes that have little to do with the main story nor its outcome. While she recounts her life and how it intermingled with Jane's, the author immerses herself in the history of the department of Anthropology at Harvard University and tries to reconstruct how the victim was like as well as the context where she lived and died. However, it encounters obstacles such as witnesses' memory loss and subjectivity or the destruction of documents. Identical facts are described in different ways which concludes in none of the main characters being defined. Cooper herself says: "every time I start to think I've pinned down my heroine, she wriggles past the outlines I've drawn for her". Therefore, the only certainty she can give is that she's "...writing a biography of someone who will always be a mystery to [her]". In which there is no doubt is that Cooper has dedicated an important part of her life to this case. Her exposure of how "meritocracy" works in universities where what matters is not talent but the most important contact is by far the best conclusion I found. Second best is how the need to find a culprit lead us as a society to invent our own versions of what happened and they can be totally wrong "[Karl] was an imperfect man ensnared in a living myth, but no criminal. We had cast him in a role that he did not deserve, both because––in the absence of answers as to what happened to Jane––we needed it filled, and because with his edginess, charisma, and flair, he could play it so well". One of the things that made me unconfortable about this book is that Cooper plays detective, drawing suspicions against possible suspects on the basis of circumstantial (and eventually mistaken) guesses. The other thing is that she heavily criticizes those who open their doors to her and offer their testimonies which made wonder how the felt when they read it. When she says that she was different from "the culture of murder fan-girling" even though she was also obsessed with Jane, it cracked me up. Finally, the resolution (view spoiler)[ it was a random killing and the murderer had no personal relation to Jane (hide spoiler)] culminated in my personal let-down for having invested so much time in this really long book and the feeling Jane's death was being used as a tool to write about all other stuff and maybe it was me that missed the point all along.

  25. 4 out of 5

    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*********** 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***********

  26. 4 out of 5

    John

    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 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 story, in my opinion. Recommended

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    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 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 might say it's a bold move to write a book in 2020 where the author inserts herself directly into a narrative of this type, and to even go as far to discuss the topic within said narrative. Becky Cooper (mostly) pulls this off, although I did find myself wishing she could have delved further into this at times. The crime: a Harvard graduate student studying archaeology, Jane Britton, is found dead in her apartment in January 1969. There are some odd discoveries at the crime scene, and the case ultimately goes cold for nearly 50 years. Cooper becomes interested/haunted by the crime during her time studying at Harvard, and on the basis of this book it seems that the murder consumes her life for the next 10 years or so. I've toyed with rounding down my rating - the book is very long, much longer than it needed to be, and later sections get bogged down in detail and long conversations with people who knew Jane which I didn't feel added much to the narrative. It's a slow burn of a read, and I expect this will put some readers off. But in spite of it's length, the book is incredibly well written and engaging for about the first 80% or so, so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt. I also think Cooper deserves credit for her respect for Jane, and the efforts she went to to learn what Jane was like as a sister and friend - something lacking from many other true crime books. Recommended. Thank you Netgalley and Random House UK / Cornerstone for the advance copy, which was provided in exchange for an honest review.

  28. 4 out of 5

    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 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 than life personalities. It also feels a bit like a gossipy expose of Harvard and the Anthropology department specifically…the rampant sexism, the insular “protect Harvard’s reputation at all costs” mentality, and the interdepartmental politics of academia. Cooper’s writing is excellent and that’s not something that generally jumps out at me when reading true crime. Though this book is long, it’s broken up into smaller sections and has pictures throughout, so it moves faster than you’d think. It will likely be the last book I add to my Best Books of 2020 list and is one of the better true crime books I’ve ever read! For more reviews, visit my blog (https://www.sarahsbookshelves.com)

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey (Kelseylovesbooks)

    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 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 author; after all, she is telling a tale as it unfolds, but I think the core story could have remained in tact with a few of the side players cut out. I have some other thoughts on the execution, but don’t want to give away any spoilers. Overall if you’re a fan of true crime, I think you’ll enjoy it, but there’s some parts you may find yourself skimming and you may want to make a character list (especially if you listen on audio).

  30. 5 out of 5

    Cazlam

    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.

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