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  • Published: 17 November 2020
  • ISBN: 9781785151996
  • Imprint: William Heinemann
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $40.00

We Keep the Dead Close

A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence




A literary true-crime book about the 1969 case involving Jane Britton, an ambitious 23-year-old graduate student in Harvard’s Archaeology Department, who was found bludgeoned to death in her Harvard University apartment.

1969: the height of counterculture and the year universities sought to curb the unruly spectacle of student protest; the winter that Harvard University began the tumultuous process of integrating Radcliffe’s female students into their all-male body; a time when the line between faculty and students was frequently blurred by passion, drugs, and sometimes brute force; and the year that Jane Britton, an ambitious 23-year-old graduate student in Harvard’s Archaeology Department and daughter of Radcliffe Vice President Boyd Britton, would be found bludgeoned to death in her university apartment.

The circumstances of Jane’s death were instantly suspicious, with ritualistic acts performed upon her body that indicated that not only was the killer someone close to her, but also someone with specific archaeological knowledge. Interestingly, there was an unprecedented media blackout on all information surrounding the case imposed by the Cambridge police department just four days after the body was discovered. Yet for fifty years, a whisper network has kept Jane’s story alive behind and beyond Harvard’s iron gates, the bible of which was a physical file of evidence passed between female archaeology students through the generations.

The rumour of that file, and the gossip that Harvard not only protected a likely suspect but also kept him in tenured employment, compelled Cooper to investigate for almost a decade.

  • Published: 17 November 2020
  • ISBN: 9781785151996
  • Imprint: William Heinemann
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $40.00

About the author

Becky Cooper

Becky Cooper is a former New Yorker writer, assistant to David Remnick, Adam Gopnik and D.T. Max, producer for the New Yorker Radio Hour. Currently, she is artist-in-residence at Harvard University, as well as Senior Fellow at Brandeis’s Schuster Institute for Investigative Reporting. Her undergraduate thesis, a literary biography of David Foster Wallace, won Harvard’s Hoopes Prize, the highest undergraduate award for research and writing. In 2013, she published Mapping Manhattan: A Love and Sometimes Hate Story in Maps by 75 New Yorkers (Abrams), which is currently in its fifth printing.

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