Becky Cooper was a junior at Harvard in 2009 when she first heard rumors about the dead girl. No one knew her name, but they knew that she was an archaeology grad student who was (allegedly) violently and ritualistically murdered by a professor with whom she was having an affair. Harvard, the rumor went, was so determined to avoid bad publicity that it stopped a police investigation, forgave the professor and acted like nothing happened.
Cooper became obsessed with the crime and, determined to find out the truth, investigated the cold case on her own for ten years, culminating in a gripping new book on her findings: We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence.
Early on she finds out that the woman’s name was Jane Britton, and she was an archaeological grad student when she was killed. Cooper painstakingly recreates Britton’s life, interviewing her friends, her family, her classmates, her boyfriend at the time and every still-living law enforcement officer who investigated her death. She pores through Britton’s letters and journals, files Freedom of Information Act requests with multiple government agencies and even spends a month on a dig in Bulgaria, similar to the one Britton did soon before her death.
Though initially motivated by the possibility of solving the murder, Cooper’s project eventually morphs into something way bigger—a story about sexism, flagrant abuses of power and the systems in place to keep it all quiet.