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The Rag and Bone Shop


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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.


Gr 7-Up This posthumously published novel by Robert Cormier (Delacorte, 2001) proves as psychologically tight as his earlier classics (The Chocolate War, We All Fall Down). Here, a middle-aged police interrogator works his craft on a12-year-old boy whom local authorities have chosen to take the role of discovered perpetrator in a crime they want to declare solved. Jason is a socially awkward and quiet boy. His neighbor and friend, a seven-year-old girl, is the murder victim. As one of the last people to see her alive, Jason has been willing to cooperate with police inquiries about events of the afternoon of her death. However, under Trent's manipulative questioning, Jason begins to wonder what it is that the police want with him. As the questioning continues, along with Trent's insidious suggestions that Jason is hiding his role in the girl's death, Jason crumbles psychologically, admitting to a crime he did not commit. Trent's need to pin the murder on the boy is teased out in excruciating detail. The tidy existential refrain, "You are what you do," echoes in Trent's head and in the listeners' ears. In pitch perfect Cormier style, the story's denouement finds Jason planning to turn the phrase inside out by doing what he has been told that he is. Scott Shina's reading of this taut and emotionally true story is riveting, with Jason's naive confusion and Trent's cynicism each given appropriate pace and voice. This is an excellent starting place for those who have yet to meet Cormier, as well as a welcome addition to his corpus for those who have read his previous novels. -Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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.

"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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