The Rag and Bone Shop

The Rag and Bone Shop

3.9 90
by Robert Cormier, Scott Shina
     
 

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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.See more details below

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Cormier's (The Chocolate War) final novel, published posthumously, is characteristically dark and thought-provoking as he delves into "the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart," (from the Yeats poem). The author offers an in-depth study of two complicated characters: Trent, an ambitious and renowned interrogator who holds a perfect record wrenching confessionals out of criminals, and 12-year-old Jason Dorrant, suspected of murdering his neighbor, seven-year-old Alicia Bartlett. The killing attracts much publicity plus the attention of a senator. The local police, anxious to solve the case quickly, call on the expertise of Trent to get Jason, the last person seen with the victim, to confess to the crime. The interview between Trent and Jason evolves into a taut, sinister mind game as the interrogation expert twists the boy's thoughts and manipulates his words. Jason parries the insinuations and accusations against him to the best of his ability, but finds himself questioning his own sense of reality. The tension mounts as it becomes increasingly evident that Trent is more concerned with getting Jason to say the words he wants to hear than discovering what really happened on the day Alicia died. The chilling results of the questioning will leave an indelible mark on readers and prompt heated discussions regarding the definition of guilt and the fine line between truth and deception. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
KLIATT
To quote from the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, November 2001: Cormier, author of the YA classics The Chocolate War, I Am the Cheese, and many other novels, completed this final story before his death last November. It concerns a 12-year-old named Jason, who is accused of the murder of seven-year-old Alice. Jason is a shy boy, more comfortable with younger children than with his peers. He was friendly with Alice—and he was the last person to have seen her before she disappeared. That makes Jason the prime suspect in the case, and an experienced (if severely depressed) policeman named Trent, an expert in eliciting confessions, is called in to interview him. Most of the book consists of this interview, and Trent succeeds in getting Jason to confess to the crime—even though, right at the end, it is revealed that he is innocent. Trent is left even more of a hollow man than before, abandoned in Yeats' "foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart." And Jason, traumatized by the experience of being pushed into a false confession, ponders, "But if you said you did it, maybe you could do it, maybe you could do something like that." Cormier hints strongly at the tragic consequences. The dual perspectives of Trent and Jason help readers understand how Jason is manipulated. Like other Cormier books, this deals with violence, with trust betrayed, with psychological intimidation. This grim but absorbing read would make for interesting discussions. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2001, Random House, Dell, Laurel Leaf, 154p.,
— Paula Rohrlick
Robert Cormier was truly one of the strongest voices in young adult writing, ever since the publication of his landmark 1974 novel, The Chocolate War. Here is the last book he wrote, with a short introduction written by his widow. The Rag and Bone Shop, its title taken from an old poem, is more accurately an adult novella, although the story centers on an adolescent who has inadvertently become the focus of a murder investigation in a small New England town. The sensibility of this novel is adult and, in fact, the story begins with a glimpse at a very tired adult just completing work on his previous case, analyzing his own lack of satisfaction. All he feels is a headache. He is a widower, missing the presence of his wife when he returns home. This protagonist is the crime investigator, simply called Trent, who lives in Vermont and has gained somewhat of a reputation as an expert in questioning witnesses and suspects. When seven-year-old Alicia Bartlett is found murdered in the Massachusetts town called Monument, Trent is called upon to conduct the questioning. The central, compelling scene of the novel reads like an extended movie scene, where the camera focuses on two characters reacting to one another. Twelve-year-old Jason Dorrant, the last person to see his neighbor Alicia alive, is questioned in a sophisticated yet outwardly innocent manner by the detective. At first, Trent asks simple questions of the boy and watches his reactions in body language and vocal inflection. As the scene continues, we notice that the questioning becomes more vehement and directional; even though we know, from the earlier scenes, that Jason is innocent, we see that the detective is becoming more determinedto prove Jason guilty, almost as a kind of sport. Jason becomes increasingly uncomfortable and confused. At the end, Trent elicits a confession from Jason that he is guilty, even though he is not. Clearly, the stress of the situation has driven the boy to make a statement to satisfy the interrogator. Word comes that the actual murderer has confessed and been booked. In a final tableau, we send a sadly psyched-out Jason, the poor victim of Trent's manipulative sessions, with a knife in his hands, ready to commit the very crime he has been falsely accused of. This is a compelling, tragic story. I do not think this is a children's book, although fans of Cormier will undoubtedly want to read it. However, The Rag and Bone Shop contains the same taut, fluid writing we have come to expect of Robert Cormier; it is a very strong piece of writing with cinematic potential as a brilliant character study. 2001, Delacorte Press, 144 pages,
— Stephen Fraser
VOYA
In his last novel, again set in fictional Monument, Massachusetts, Cormier relates the simple but shocking story of a boy wrongly accused of murder. Twelve-year-old Jason Dorrant was the last person to see seven-year-old Alicia Bartlett alive, so naturally he is called to police headquarters for questioning about the girl's murder. He arrives eager to help but nervous and self-doubting—the same characteristics he displays at school and with his peers. The police and district attorney are under great pressure from the media and an influential senator, whose grandson was Alicia's classmate, to make an arrest. So they bring in a ringer, Trent—a crack interrogator who always gets his confession. Most of the narrative describes his interrogation, held in a hot, windowless, cramped office in which Jason is broken down methodically by Trent. A twist at the end provides the story's true horror in familiar Cormier fashion. Constance Cormier's personal remembrance of her husband is printed at the book's beginning. In it, she states that he died before he was able to tinker with this manuscript, as was his habit. It shows, but not much. The dialogue is razor-sharp; Jason's thought process credibly demonstrates how and why he succumbs to the relentless interrogation; and the depth of Trent's character is revealed in flashbacks to other interrogations, his wife's death, and his self-loathing. This final offering by a beloved author is entertaining and provocative—the hallmark of a Cormier novel. Bravo again, and farewell to the master. VOYA CODES: 4Q 5P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Every YA (who reads) was dying to read it yesterday; Junior High, definedas grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, Delacorte, 154p, $15.95. Ages 12 to 18. Reviewer: Florence H. Munat
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-Cormier revisits familiar psychological and temporal territories in this memorable novella that was finished, but unpolished, at the time of his death. It's the beginning of summer vacation after seventh grade for Jason when his neighbor and friend, seven-year-old Alicia Bartlett, is murdered. Even though there is no physical evidence linking him to the crime, Jason is a suspect because he is thought to be the last person to have seen her alive. An ambitious, outside police interrogator who has a reputation for being able to extract a confession in difficult cases is brought in. Although Trent comes to believe that Jason is innocent, he succumbs to pressures of a high-profile investigation and successfully coerces a confession. Unfortunately for Trent, Alicia's older brother Brad confesses, is arrested, and charged. The interrogator is left with a tattered reputation and in the shocking denouement, Jason realizes that he has become a person capable of contemplating and thus, he asserts, carrying out a murder. The suggestion seems to be that childlike innocence, when betrayed by powerful, manipulative adults, can be easily subverted. Readers are shown a psychotic killer in the process of becoming. However, Jason, Trent, and the book as a whole present more questions than answers. Readers will be compelled to keep turning the pages, but will never know why Brad killed Alicia or if Jason is really capable of such a crime. These are things only individuals can know as they explore the dark interior of their own rag-and-bone shops.-Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Junior High School, Iowa City, IA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The late Cormier's final work is a tense thriller exploring how confession affects those who give it and those who get it. Sometimes it's not good for the soul, as in this recounting of an innocent boy's earnest intent to assist in an investigation that has decided he is the culprit and must be coerced to confess. Pared-down characters are matched by straightforward prose in this spare account. Drawing on the Catholic doctrine stating that absolution follows admission of guilt, Cormier inverts the paradigm and shows the effects of confessing when there is no real wrong done. Part one is detective Trent's extraction of a chilling admission to multiple murders by Carl who seems to have aimlessly slid into doing horrible deeds. In part two readers meet Jason, who slid by in the seventh grade, almost unnoticed, and arrives at the first day of summer vacation looking forward to an easy time. Lacking confidence in himself, he spends time with neighbors more focused on seven-year-old Alicia than the boys his own age whooping it up in the pool. Along the way are glimpses of the detectives and local politicians whose intent is to catch the killer, as quickly as possible for the sake of their own reputations as much as the security of the community. Tension builds as Jason's earnest desire to see the culprit caught and his internal monologue about the completeness and veracity of his memories counterpoint the clever techniques used. Trent is the priest who not only hears the confession, but extracts it. By the end, the evil has spread like a miasma to cause further death. Highly discussible, the ethical questions contained are intricate and absorbing, but detract not at all from the increasingtension as the story unfolds. Chilling. (Fiction. YA)
From the Publisher
“Tense and terrifying, this final book from Cormier will leave a lasting impression.”
–Booklist, Starred

“The chilling results of the questioning will leave an indelible mark on readers and prompt heated discussions regarding the definition of guilt and the fine line between truth and deception.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781402510281
Publisher:
Recorded Books, LLC
Publication date:
02/04/2002
Edition description:
Unabridged
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

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.”

Pause.

“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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