Monday, February 15, 2021

Book Review - We Keep the Dead Close; Becky Cooper


TITLE/AUTHOR:  We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence; Becky Cooper

PUBLISHER:  Grand Central Publishing


GENRE: Non Fiction  - True Crime/Memoir

FORMAT:  hardcover  PP/LENGTH: 512

SOURCE:  hardcover sent by publisher

SETTING(s):  Cambridge, MA 

ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY:  A true crime memoir about a 1969 murder that rocked Harvard and, a case that remained unsolved for half a century.

BRIEF REVIEW:  Jane Britton was a grad student preparing for her doctorate in Anthropology at Harvard in 1969 when she was found brutally beaten and raped in her Cambridge, MA apartment.  Her murder was unsolved for 50 years although there were several suspects which included faculty.

The author Becky Cooper, became interested in Jane's unsolved case in 2009 when she was an undergrad at Harvard herself. She soon began to immerse herself in the details of Jane's life on campus as well as many of the rumors and speculation about her life leading up to her murder. Included in this was Jane's relationship with a married, tenured, faculty member, a few boyfriends and conversations with former classmates and friends. With each new interview the story grew more complex. Not only was this a story about Jane Britton, it was a story about a prestigious institution and the university's desire to make the speculation and investigations disappear in an effort to protect the school's reputation and that of its faculty members.

The story jumped back and forth in time from the late 1960s to the author's time on campus followed by nearly a decade of research and interviews.  I thought the author did a great job acclimating the reader to Harvard /Radcliffe culture and the way faculty were revered and coverups, at times,  seemed almost commonplace.   This book, 500 pages with sources and photographs, was very good but, I did think it could have been shortened. I didn't think that the author needed to insert so much of her personal story into this effort.  The Jane Britton murder was eventually solved a few years ago as the author was finishing this book.  (DO NOT Google this case, as I did,  if you plan to read this book -- even though I knew the outcome, I still thought the author's efforts were commendable. and I was happy I read this one.

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing for sending me a finished copy in exchange for my unbiased review.

RATING: 4/5 stars


  1. 500 pages does feel a bit long for this one. But it does sound interesting.

  2. I like true crime now and then. My daughter loves true crime. I wonder if she knows about this case. She watches a lot of documentaries on Netflix.

  3. Sounds like a fascinating, and very sad, true crime story. I've been wondering if this one was worth a look because of its length, and it sounds like it mostly is. So thanks for that comment and the spoiler alert for anyone considering this one.

  4. This sounds very interesting. I don't read true crime often but I like the investigation aspects of this and can appreciate the work the author must have done to write this story.

  5. 500 pages for a true crime book sounds a bit long, especially if it comes because of the author's person story. That said, this sounds really interesting.

  6. I often get lost with lots of jumping back and forth but it does sound good.

  7. I rarely read true crime but this sounds interesting. And I agree with the others that 500 pages is a bit too long so I suppose I'll read it should the right mood strikes.

  8. I’m definitely curious, thanks for sharing your thoughts

  9. I don't read much true crime, but this one made its way to my wish list. It does seem a bit long though...

  10. I just finished Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee, which is great. So I have had my fill of true crime for now. But this one sounds quite good too.

  11. This has been on my list for awhile but I'm not sure if I'm going to read it. I'm finding it harder to read true crime - I guess too much of it in the media. Thank you for your review - sounds like a well-researched book, which is usually my cup of tea.

  12. I haven't the heart to read a True Crime story. I feel like it's scarier than any Stephen King or any horror novels. I especially don't like reading about rape, so I might give it a pass.


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