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Publisher's Summary

A Recommended Book from: New York Times * Publishers Weekly * Kirkus * BookRiot * Booklist * Boston Globe * Goodreads * Town & Country * Refinery29 * CrimeReads * Glamour

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 US 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.

*Special audiobook bonus PDF includes photos and source notes*

©2020 Becky Cooper (P)2020 Grand Central Publishing

Critic Reviews

"Searching, atmospheric and ultimately entrancing, We Keep the Dead Close is a vivid account of a notorious murder at Harvard that had remained unsolved for fifty years, and a meditation on the stories that we tell ourselves about violence. Cooper is a methodical, obsessive and very companionable sleuth, who ushers us through the many twists and turns in her own investigation until she arrives at a solution. In a deft touch, she interrogates not just the evidence, witnesses and suspects, but her own biases and assumptions, as well." (Patrick Radden Keefe, New York Times best-selling author of Say Nothing)

"Meticulously reported and sensitively written, We Keep the Dead Close is top-of-the-line true crime, fortified with shrewd intellectual rigor and acute moral clarity. This case became Becky Cooper's obsession, and before long, you'll be obsessed, too." (Robert Kolker, author of the number one New York Times best seller Hidden Valley Road)

"We Keep the Dead Close is the most amazing true crime book I have read where the identity of the person responsible was not revealed until the end. It's the true crime story everyone will be talking about next year." (BookRiot)

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What listeners say about We Keep the Dead Close

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Needs a great editor

I usually enjoy a long book but this book was way too long and repetitive. At least a third of it could have been discarded without losing much in the process. And perhaps too many extraneous subjects were included that might do better as a separate book because they don’t really concern this murder.
And typically, without a lot of experience and training an author is not the best person to read or perform the book. There was not enough variation and interest in her voice. It got boring.
It’s all too bad because this could’ve been a much better book. I don’t think it should have been published as is.

25 people found this helpful

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Reading Woes!

I’m all for the writer reading a book they’ve written. But it still needs to be edited. Mispronunciations galore. I was so sick of hearing The Peabody Museum pronounced “pee-buddy”. At first I thought it wouldn’t be irksome and then it repeated hundreds of times. Also, it seems that 92% of the book was written before the DNA analysis revealed the real killer thus making 92% of the book obsolete nonsense tracking the unusual habits and personalities previously “connected” to the case. Very disappointing.

15 people found this helpful

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Rambling and Incoherent At Times

As a true crime fan, I was excited to read this book. The setting (hallowed grounds of Harvard), young bright girl, academic intrigue, police misconduct, even ritual murder clues - all of this is a great basis for a rich story. But the author fumbled terribly. She seemed to tangle her story lines and the characters were really hard to keep up with. She also inserted a lot of anthropology psychobabble that added nothing to the story line. I lost patience with the author. Skipped through last part of book, something I never do. The author’s musings just drove me to want this book to be over.

15 people found this helpful

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Rethinking True Crine

We Keep the Dead Close redefines true crime. Cooper’s determination to honor Jane Britton’s short life brings respect, scholarship and sobriety to the genre. The careful examination of Britton’s murder does cover every detail of the crime and investigation, but also considers the psychological and social aspects of how we view victims. You never lose sight of the fact that Jane Britton was very much a living, breathing human and all the complications her humanity entails.
We Keep the Dead close has so much more though. While telling the fascinating story of Britton’s murder, Cooper carefully covers the history of the past 50 years, the sometimes toxic history of Harvard and the often toxic history of women in academia. Her painstaking research adds to the solemnity of the crime and never lessens the suspense.
Hopefully Cooper’s next book will not take ten years to write. But maybe that’s why it’s such a flawless accomplishment.

11 people found this helpful

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Details Details

Extremely detailed research but tedious. The wealth of details could have been trimmed significantly. I am glad that the perpetrator of Jane’s death was finally revealed and the author worked diligently to make that happen.

9 people found this helpful

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She Keeps the Dead VERY Close

This is one very strange book. For the first third of it I thought I couldn’t get through it. Which was surprising because I love true crime. The writing style was painful as was the author/ narrator’s little girl voice. This is about the inner workings of the male dominated world of academia at Harvard in the late 60’s early 70’s but mostly it’s about the author’s complete obsession with this case and the victim.

7 people found this helpful

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Fascinating narrative

Becky Cooper does an incredible job of weaving together through a memoir like style the story of Jane, her own story and many of those impacted by tragedy. She also does an excellent job of focusing on systemic issues at Harvard and the changing cultural trends in academia.

I always prefer author narrated books and this one really delivers. The passion of Ms. Cooper’s written word comes across in her narration. I’m deeply impressed with her reporting and writing and looking forward to seeing what she does next.

5 people found this helpful

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Too much narrator

The underlying story is interesting but the book completely lacks focus. What is it about? The writer has done extensive, years-long research bordering on obsession, and perhaps because it has taken over her life, she has inserted herself into the story way too much. And not in a good way. Also, the book is way too long. You finally find out "who done it" and the book goes on for another two hours. I have an hour left and I don't think I can do it.

5 people found this helpful

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Amazing!

Gripping from the first word to the last. Beautifully written. Highly recommended- even for those who are not interested in mysteries.

4 people found this helpful

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Incredible!

A really amazing book, so detailed and meticulous which serves to give you the feeling of being there, which also makes it creepy! Just in awe of the dedication this book took to write and the blend of facts, humanity, context that makes it so engaging and relevant today.

4 people found this helpful