The Rag and Bone Shop

The Rag and Bone Shop

by Robert Cormier

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Overview

The Rag and Bone Shop by Robert Cormier

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780440229711
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 05/13/2003
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 250,080
Product dimensions: 4.19(w) x 6.94(h) x 0.45(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Robert Cormier’s many acclaimed novels include the classics The Chocolate War and I Am the Cheese. He is a recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award, honoring his lifetime contribution to writing for teens.

Date of Birth:

January 17, 1925

Date of Death:

November 2, 2000

Place of Birth:

Leominster, Massachusetts

Place of Death:

Leominster, Massachusetts

Education:

Fitchburg State College

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.

Reading Group Guide

In Robert Cormier’s unforgettable novels, an individual often stands alone, fighting for what is right–or just to survive–against powerful, sinister, and sometimes evil people. His books look unflinchingly at tyranny and the abuse of power, at treachery and betrayal, at guilt and forgiveness, love and hate, and the corruption of innocence. 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.

The questions that follow are intended to spur discussion and to provoke thoughtful readers to contemplate some of the issues of identity, character, emotion, and morality that make Cormier’s books so compelling

1. The title of this novel is drawn from two lines of a poem by William Butler Yeats, “The Circus Animals’ Desertion.” How does the phrase “the rag and bone shop” (i.e., a place where the worst castoffs end up) sum up the essence of this novel? What is Trent saying about his life when he quotes these two lines? (p. 71) And when he shifts into the final phase of the interrogation and remembers the first line? (p. 123)

2. After Jason vanquishes the bully Bobo Kelton with one blow, “he didn’t think he’d ever hit anybody again but he had proved himself capable of doing it.” (p. 26) How does the second part of that sentence become a weapon later for Trent? Why does hitting Bobo mean an end to Jason’s tears? Is the principal right when he says violence never solves anything?

3. Trent’s deceased wife Lottie had told him, “You are what you do.” Why, coming from her, is this an accusation? How, coming from Trent himself at the end, is it a death sentence? Is it true that people are what they do, not only in their jobs, but in the sum total of all their acts, good and bad? Can this be changed?

4. Sarah Downes (and also Carl Seaton) compares Trent to a priest. How are Trent’s interrogations like what a priest does in the confessional? But what crucial differences in Trent’s intentions and capabilities make the outcome for his “perps” entirely different?

5. The exact definitions of the following words are important to understanding the ideas that underlie Cormier’s themes of guilt, innocence, and forgiveness. Look up admission, confession, absolution, indictment, and remission and notice how their definitions overlap and where they differ. How are these terms central to this story?

6. What are the heavy external and internal pressures on Trent to get a confession from Jason? In real life, is it possible that this kind of pressure may result in hasty convictions of innocent people? Have you heard of any such cases? What might be done to keep this from happening?

7. Trent says he has “rules and regulations” for interrogations. What are some of these strategies that relate to the preliminary scenario, the physical set-up of the room, and the subtleties of psychological intimidation? How do these interrogation techniques affect the suspect?

8. “Thrust and parry” is a phrase Trent uses to describe the interrogation. From what sport does this expression come, and what image does it evoke? As the questioning proceeds, Trent suddenly knows irrevocably that Jason is innocent. How does he talk himself out of acting on this realization? What would have been the consequences if he had allowed himself to follow his conscience?

9. A stunning plot twist takes us by surprise when Trent emerges into the hall after he has tricked Jason into “confessing” and is told by Sarah Downes that Brad Bartlett has just admitted to killing his sister. Suddenly everything is different. What are the present and future implications of this new situation for Trent? For Jason? What emotions might they each have felt at this moment that they didn’t feel?

10. In the end, Jason’s view of reality has been badly twisted by Trent’s perverse questioning and his own false confession. What does he tell himself to justify his plan to kill Bobo? How will this action restore his self-respect? If he carries through on this murder, who will then need to confess?


Discussion questions prepared by Patty Campbell, author of Presenting Robert Cormier (Twayne, Dell) and 1989 winner of the ALA’s Grolier Foundation Award for distinguished service to young adults and libraries.

Customer Reviews

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Rag and Bone Shop 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 91 reviews.
Jerry Lamontagne More than 1 year ago
This+page+turner+is+mysterious+and+will+leaves+you+on+your+knees+begging+for+more...+It+is+wonderfully+written+and+does+an+excellent+job+of+displaying+the+character%27s+emotions%21
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.
bmozanich on LibraryThing 4 days ago
The Rag and Bone shop is a suspenseful, thrilling, murder mystery. The reader begins to wonder about suspects as he is immediately drawn into the story. The two main characters are complex and keep the reader questioning personality traits, hidden agendas, and motives. Cormier does a fantastic job of building suspense and discomfort during the interrogation sessions. It is easy to feel empathy for Jason and fear of Detective Trent. The manipulation is well described with relevant details. Jason¿s fears are real and believable. Readers will identify with the idea of adults manipulating situations to overwhelm teens.
Emibrarian on LibraryThing 4 days ago
Trent, an ace interrogator from Vermont, works to procure a confession from an introverted twelve-year-old, Jason, accused of murdering his friend in Massachusetts. Well written and a quick read, but has a very disturbing ending.
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
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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
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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.