We Keep the Dead Close

Becky Cooper

We Keep the Dead Close
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We Keep the Dead Close

Becky Cooper

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.

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