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  • Published: 14 December 2021
  • ISBN: 9781786090553
  • Imprint: Windmill Books
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 512
  • RRP: $22.99

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.


'Brilliant and extraordinary' Philippe Sands

'Astonishing ... Cooper is one hell of a detective' Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, author of The Fact of a Body

'Seductive ... Haunting' Ariel Levy, author of The Rules Do Not Apply

In 1969, Jane Britton, an ambitious graduate student at Harvard, was found bludgeoned to death in her apartment. A whisper network kept Jane's story alive: a rumour of an affair with a professor that ended in tragedy when Britton threatened to expose him.

Forty years later, when curious undergrad Becky Cooper first heard the story, she felt compelled to find out more. We Keep the Dead Close is an account of her complex and fascinating investigation spanning a decade.

  • Published: 14 December 2021
  • ISBN: 9781786090553
  • Imprint: Windmill Books
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 512
  • RRP: $22.99

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.

Praise for We Keep the Dead Close

Exhilarating and seductive ... Haunting, fascinating, and surprising. Cooper will keep you riveted.

Ariel Levy, author of The Rules Do Not Apply

Searching, atmospheric and ultimately entrancing ... A vivid account of a notorious murder at Harvard, and a meditation on the stories that we tell ourselves about violence ... With a deft touch, she interrogates not just the evidence, witnesses and suspects, but her own biases and assumptions, as well.

Patrick Radden Keefe, author of SAY NOTHING

Stunning ... This vivid, graceful story is as much about obsession and a search for belonging as it is about the romance of exploration, the unglamorous logistics of scientific fieldwork, the secretiveness of clans, the cruelty of chance, and the doggedness inherent to the best narrative journalism.

Paige Williams, author of THE DINOSAUR ARTIST

Exhilarating ... Becky Cooper masterfully uncovers the story of Harvard undergrad Jane Britton


Top drawer investigative reporting. Riveting. A refreshing reason to sacrifice sleep.

Sarah Jessica Parker

A brilliant and extraordinary book.

Philippe Sands

An extraordinary piece of crime writing that's so much more than a whodunnit.

Mail on Sunday

A beautifully composed elegy ... A brilliantly idiosyncratic variant of generic true crime.

Joyce Carol Oates, New York Review of Books

An impressively granular investigation of this shocking and perplexing case...Cooper should be lauded for her investigative abilities - there is no question that she has earned her spot among the ranks of detectives and reporters who have spent decades obsessed with the Britton case ... It's in discussing the misogyny of academia and the politics of Harvard that Cooper shines the brightest ... [We Keep the Dead Close is] a meditation on academia, womanhood and the power of storytelling.

Washington Post

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 HIDDEN VALLEY ROAD

I defy any reader to resist the hypnotic power of this Harvard whodunit. In a tour de force of investigative reporting, Becky Cooper guides us through a maze of academic politics and personal intrigue, her sleuthing laced with uncommon sensitivity and insight. Even as it engages us emotionally, this stirring narrative, with its heart-stopping finale, forces us to ponder the very nature of historical truth. A stunning achievement.

Ron Chernow

This is an astonishing book: circuitous yet taut with suspense, layered yet gripping. Cooper is one hell of a detective, chasing a long-buried murder mystery not only to the victim and her killer, but to the very core of how we understand one another. Most remarkable is how contemporary and vital every bit of questioning Cooper does here feels. Jane Britton died decades ago, but in Cooper's hands, Britton's tragic murder teaches us about ourselves and the dangers of the institutions we uphold.

Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, author of THE FACT OF A BODY

Ambitious ... A highly sophisticated investigation of a cold case mixed with elements of memoir and trendy cultural criticism.


Meticulous investigation ... sparkling prose ... As with all good stories, We Keep the Dead Close's particularities seep from its pages to encompass us all. Flipping between past, present and a cast of brilliant-difficult characters ... Compelling.


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