The Rag and Bone Shop

The Rag and Bone Shop

3.9 90
by Robert Cormier

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Twelve-year old Jason is accused of the brutal murder of a young girl. Is he innocent or guilty? The shocked town calls on an interrogator with a stellar reputation: he always gets a confession. The confrontation between Jason and his interrogator forms the chilling climax of this terrifying look at what can happen when the pursuit of justice becomes a personal…  See more details below


Twelve-year old Jason is accused of the brutal murder of a young girl. Is he innocent or guilty? The shocked town calls on an interrogator with a stellar reputation: he always gets a confession. The confrontation between Jason and his interrogator forms the chilling climax of this terrifying look at what can happen when the pursuit of justice becomes a personal crusade for victory at any cost.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews
Robert Cormier, a man who had been called "the single most important writer in the whole history of young adult literature," died in 2000. Shortly before his death, he finished this gripping novel about a 12-year-old boy accused of murder. This story of a preteen's deadly predicament will stay in your memory forever. But would expect less from the author of The Chocolate War and I Am the Cheese?

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Random House Children's Books
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Random House
File size:
154 KB
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

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Part I

“Feeling better?”

“I guess so. My headache’s gone. Is there a connection?”

“Maybe. They say confession’s good for the soul. But I don’t know if it eliminates headaches.”

“Am I supposed to say I’m sorry now?”

“The fact that you confessed indicates a degree of sorrow.”

“Is that enough?”

“That’s up to you, Carl. What you did can’t be erased, of course.”

“I know. They’re dead. Gone. Can’t bring them back. But—can the sin be erased?”

“I can’t tell you that. I’m not a priest.”

“But I confessed to you.”

“Yes, but I can’t give you absolution.”


“Are the police coming?”

“They’re waiting outside.”

Trent shut off the tape player and leaned back in the chair, kneaded the flesh above his eyebrows. In the silence of the office, he still heard Carl Seaton’s voice, all cunning gone, penitent, full of regret. Trent had sat across from him for four hours, under the harsh light of a 100-watt ceiling bulb, in the small cluttered office. The relentless questions and answers, the evasions and rationalizations, the eventual admission (not the same as a confession), and, finally, the confession itself.

The Trent magic touch at work, as a newspaper headline had once proclaimed. But Trent felt no particular magic now, no thrill of accomplishment. Too many confessions? Like Carl Seaton’s? Having induced Carl to confess (that old Trent magic has you in its spell), Trent had had to listen to the recitation of his cold-blooded, deliberate murder of three people. The victims were a thirty-five-year-old woman, her thirty-seven-year-old husband and their ten-year-old son, although Carl hadn’t known their ages at the time.

Six months ago, in the milky whiteness of a winter dawn, Carl Seaton had broken into the modest two-story home of Aaron and Muriel
Stone to steal the small gun collection in the cellar. He admitted that he knew nothing about guns except the pleasure of holding them in his hands and the sense of power they gave him. Carl Seaton broke a cellar window, not worried about the noise of his intrusion, having learned that the family was away on vacation and that there was no alarm system.

He was disappointed to find that there were only three small guns in the so-called collection. He was surprised to find that the guns were loaded. He then decided to search the house. Thought he might find something of value, although he knew nothing about fencing stolen goods. Heard a noise from the second floor. Padded toward the stairs, his sneakers noiseless in the carpeted hallway. Upstairs, he entered a bedroom and was surprised to see a man and woman asleep in the bed. The woman slightly curled up, the bedclothes thrown off. Beautiful eyelashes, thick and curved. The husband flat on his back, mouth open, snoring gently. Carl became conscious of the gun in his hand, felt suddenly the power of his position. What it must feel like to be—God. Looking down at them, so helpless and defenseless, it occurred to him that he could do anything he wanted with them. They were at his mercy. He wondered what the woman would look like without her blue nightgown on. He had never seen an actual naked woman, only in magazines, movies and videos. But it was too much of a bother now to think about that. He didn’t want to spoil this nice feeling, just standing there, knowing he was in charge. He raised the gun and shot them. First, the man. The bullet exploded through the thin blanket, small shreds of green cloth filling the air like rain, the noise of the shot not as loud as he’d imagined it would be. As the woman leaped awake, her eyes flying open, he shot her in the mouth, marveled at the gush of blood and the way her eyes became fixed and frozen in shock. A mighty sneeze shook his body, the smell of gunpowder heavy in the air.

He wondered: Was there anybody else in the house who might have heard the shots? He went into the hallway, opened a door at the far end, saw a boy sleeping in a bed shaped almost like a boat, hair in neat bangs on his forehead. The boy’s eyelids fluttered. Carl wondered whether he should shoot him or not. Then decided that the boy would be better off if he did. Terrible thing to wake up and find your mother and father dead. Murdered. Carl shot the boy as an act of kindness, nodding, feeling good about it, generous.

Carl Seaton had confessed his acts of murder almost eagerly, glad to provide the details that would lead to his own doom, his voice buoyant with relief. Which was often the case with those who finally acknowledged their acts.

Trent felt only contempt for Carl Seaton, although he had simulated sympathy and compassion during the interrogation. Acting was only another facet of interrogating subjects. If he felt any compassion at the moment, it was for Carl Seaton’s parents. Carl was seventeen years old.

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Meet the Author

Robert Cormier (pronounced kor-MEER) lived all his life in Leominster, Massachusetts, a small town in the north-central part of the state, where he grew up as part of a close, warm community of French Canadian immigrants. His wife, Connie, also from Leominster, still lives in the house where they raised their three daughters and one son–all adults now. They never saw a reason to leave. “There are lots of untold stories right here on Main Street,” Cormier once said.

A newspaper reporter and columnist for 30 years (working for the Worcester Telegram and Gazette and the Fitchburg Sentinel), Cormier was often inspired by news stories. What makes his works unique is his ability to make evil behavior understandable, though, of course, still evil. “I’m very much interested in intimidation,” he told an interviewer from School Library Journal. “And the way people manipulate other people. And the obvious abuse of authority.” All of these themes are evident in his young adult classic and best-known book, The Chocolate War. A 15-year-old fan of his said, “You always write from inside the person.”

Cormier traveled the world, from Australia (where he felt particularly thrilled by putting his hand in the Indian Ocean) and New Zealand to most of the countries in Europe, speaking at schools, colleges, and universities and to teacher and librarian associations. He visited nearly every state in the nation. While Cormier loved to travel, he said many times that he also loved returning to his home in Leominster.

Cormier was a practicing Catholic and attended parochial school, where in seventh grade, one of his teachers discovered his ability to write. But he said he had always wanted to be a writer: “I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t trying to get something down on paper.” His first poems were published in the Leominster Daily Enterprise, and his first professional publication occurred while he was a freshman at Fitchburg State College. His professor, Florence Conlon, sent his short story, without his knowledge, to The Sign, a national Catholic magazine. The story, titled “The Little Things That Count,” sold for $75.

Cormier’s first work as a writer was at radio station WTAG in Worcester, MA, where he wrote scripts and commercials from 1946 to 1948. In 1948, he began his award-winning career as a newspaperman with the Worcester Telegram, first in its Leominster office and later in its Fitchburg office. He wrote a weekly human-interest column, “A Story from the Country,” for that newspaper.

In 1955, Cormier joined the staff of the Fitchburg Sentinel, which later became the Fitchburg-Leominster Sentinel and Enterprise, as the city hall and political reporter. He later served as wire and associate editor and wrote a popular twice-weekly column under the pseudonym John Fitch IV. The column received the national K.R. Thomason Award in 1974 as the best human-interest column written that year. That same year, he was honored by the New England Associated Press Association for having written the best news story under pressure of deadline. He left newspaper work in 1978 to devote all his time to writing.

Robert Cormier’s first novel, Now and at the Hour, was published in 1960. Inspired by his father’s death, the novel drew critical acclaim and was featured by Time magazine for five weeks on its “Recommended Reading” list. It was followed in 1963 by A Little Raw on Monday Mornings and in 1965 by Take Me Where the Good Times Are, also critically acclaimed. The author was hailed by the Newark Advocate as being “in the first rank of American Catholic novelists.”

In 1974, Cormier published The Chocolate War, the novel that is still a bestseller a quarter century after its publication. Instantly acclaimed, it was also the object of censorship attempts because of its uncompromising realism. In a front-page review in a special children’s issue of The New York Times Book Review, it was described as “masterfully structured and rich in theme,” and it went on to win countless awards and honors, was taught in schools and colleges throughout the world, and was translated into more than a dozen languages. I Am the Cheese followed in 1977 and After the First Death in 1979.

These three books established Cormier as a master of the young adult novel. In 1991, the Young Adult Services Division of the American Library Association presented him with the Margaret A. Edwards Award, citing the trio of books as “brilliantly crafted and troubling novels that have achieved the status of classics in young adult literature.”

In 1982, Cormier was honored by the National Council of Teachers of English and its Adolescent Literature Assembly (ALAN) for his “significant contribution to the field of adolescent literature” and for his “innovative creativity.”

8 Plus 1, an anthology of short stories that have appeared in such publications as the Saturday Evening Post, The Sign, and Redbook, was published in 1980. In later years, many of the stories in the collection, notably “The Moustache,” “President Cleveland, Where Are You?” and “Mine on Thursdays,” appeared in anthologies and school textbooks. The collection also received the World of Reading Readers’ Choice Award, sponsored by Silver Burdett & Ginn, especially notable because young readers voted for Cormier to receive the prize.

I Have Words to Spend, a collection of his newspaper and magazine columns, was published in 1991, assembled and edited by his wife, Connie.

Robert Cormier’s other novels include The Bumblebee Flies Anyway, 1983; Beyond the Chocolate War, 1985; Fade, 1988; Other Bells for Us to Ring, 1990; We All Fall Down, 1991; Tunes for Bears to Dance To, 1992; In the Middle of the Night, 1995; Tenderness, 1997; Heroes, 1998; and Frenchtown Summer, 1999. This novel won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Fiction in April 2000. All his novels have won critical praise and honors.

In the Middle of the Night and Tenderness were short-listed for the Carnegie Medal in England, and Heroes received a “Highly Commended” citation for that same award, unique honors because the Carnegie is traditionally awarded to a British book.

Cormier's novels have frequently come under attack by censorship groups because they are uncompromising in their depictions of the problems young people face each day in a turbulent world. Teachers and librarians have been quick to point out that his novels are eminently teachable, valuable, and moral. His novels are taught in hundreds of schools and in adolescent literature courses in colleges and universities.

Though many of his books are described as written for young adults, in fact people of all ages read and enjoy Cormier’s work. His themes of the ordinariness of evil and what happens when good people stand by and do nothing are treated seriously, and he never provides the easy comfort of a happy ending. Cormier’s gripping stories explore some of the darker corners of the human psyche, but always with a moral focus and a probing intelligence that compel readers to examine their own feelings and ethical beliefs.

In an interview last year, Cormier was asked if he had accomplished what he set out to do at the beginning of his writing career. He answered with characteristic humility: “Oh, yes. My dream was to be known as a writer and to be able to produce at least one book that would be read by people. That dream came true with the publication of my first novel–and all the rest has been a sweet bonus. All I’ve ever wanted to do, really, was to write.” That writing has left the world a legacy of wonderful books, a body of work that will endure.

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Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
January 17, 1925
Date of Death:
November 2, 2000
Place of Birth:
Leominster, Massachusetts
Place of Death:
Leominster, Massachusetts
Fitchburg State College

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Rag and Bone Shop 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 89 reviews.
Jerry Lamontagne More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Robert Cormier has done it again. This is a wonderful book. I read it in one day and could not put it down. Chapters are short and suspenseful. Of course, the end keeps you wanting more. I wonder if he planned a sequel while writing this. Unfortunately, we will never know the answer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It wasn't the but but wasn't the worst It was slow but a page turner because you want to know who done it I wush it would have been longer then 65 pages!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
How many pages is this book?
2-chainz More than 1 year ago
The story is of the brutal murder of a seven-year-old girl named Alicia Bartlett and the interrogation of a twelve-year-old boy, named Jason Dorrant, who is her friend and the last known person to see her alive. Trent, an expert interrogator, known to get confessions which seemed impossible to obtain and has never lost a case, is called in for the case. you will have to read the book to get the rest its a good book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In darckclans camp there is a small pile contaning the food,usaully it hadfrogs,voles,mice,and if were lucky a squirrle
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My language arts teacher recomended this book and she warite to do it . This was an amazing book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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CaViarLaVar More than 1 year ago
This book was good got me into reading murder mysteries.
Mutter88 More than 1 year ago
It was a good book, don't get me wrong, and i enjoyed the plot - but it went very fast and it was very short. The details could have been better, certain parts could have been drawn out, things could have been expanded on. I suppose i would recommend this for younger teens, but i would guess older teens/adults would more enjoy other books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
kelsey_ More than 1 year ago
This book, written by Robert Cormier, is an exciting mystery! It will keep you on your seat, guess until the end! The Rag and the Bone Shop is perfect for anyone looking for a good "who did it?" type mystery. Description and summary of main points Twelve year old Jason is just a shy kid hardly any friends. The few friends he does have are around the age of seven. One little girl in particular, Alicia. She was playing cards with Jason just like a regular afternoon. But as soon as Jason left, it was reported that Alicia was found dead. Murdered. But by who? Jason was the last person to see her alive so he is brought in for questioning. He swears he's innocent. Well the interrogator switches everything Jason says to make it seem like he's a brutal murderer. It all drove him mad to turn himself in, even though he did nothing. Alicia's sister then reveals the truth of who the real murderer is. But it keeps Jason wondering if he was truly capable of murder. I think this was a very good book! It was hard to put down due to all the suspense! Although I did find it a little confusing because with every chapter, the author switches points of view by going back and forth between Jason and the interrogator. But one you got the hang of it, it got better and you can focus more on the story. In conclusion, I found that I particularly enjoyed this book because I like mysteries that keep you guessing. And this one truly delivered. I defiantly recommend this book to kids in the late years of middle school or early days of high school. This is a book to get hooked on. A good book that will keep you guessing until the very last page! I loved this book a lot and I think you will too! Robert Cormier has done a great job once again! He writes many books about mysteries so if you like this one, you'll love the others! Read this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the first piece of righting I have read by Robert, and I found it to be extremely slow and dragged out. The plot of the story, I found thrilling, although it seemed to take forever to get there. I found myself putting the book down constantly, and it was hard to pick it back up. One thing that I did enjoy about this book was the fact that he explained it so well that when I found out that Alicia had been murdered I was sad. This book tells about a young boy named Jason, and an older man named Trent. Robert tells the story from the two's perspectives, which I found hard to keep up with. The story tells about how Trent is feeling depressed, because his girlfriend has just passed and the sad interrogations are too much. But after the brutal death of Alicia Barton, the police call Trent to interrogate their only suspect, Jason. Who was reported to be the last one to see Alicia alive. Robert did a fantastic job keeping me on the edge on my seat! I was always wondering if it really was Jason or not! He also did a marvelous job of making me feel like I was there. Like he described how the murdered laid Alicia down, and pulled her dress down and fixed her hair. Although my thoughts about the books beginning were negative, in the end this was still I good read. I probably won't re-read this book again, but I will be checking out some of his other books. I would recommend this to anyone who likes mysteries. It was a good quick read and didn't take me more than a week to finish. Many of my friends have read this book and found it all to be quite thrilling, so if you have some time on your hands I would check it out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
brtvog More than 1 year ago
Rag and Bone Shop The book rag and bone shop is told by the perspective of a man named Trent and a twelve year old boy named Jason. When Jason's friend Alicia is brutally murdered the police become very suspicious of Jason. Why is a twelve year old boy hanging around a seven year old girl when she has an older brother Jason's age? Jason is after all the last one to see Alicia alive and it all begins to make Jason look very bad in the eyes of the police. The town wants answers because if it wasn't Jason, then who killed her? This is when Trent an investigator who's known for getting confessions is called in. Trent also comes with some of his own set of problems, as you listen to his story. His girlfriend has recently passed away which has left him very upset. For a man who hears so many terrible things daily this seems unusual. This griping story was one I found hard to put down. Even though it has kind of a darker side to it I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it to be a quick read even though I am a slow reader. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who like a little bit of mystery.