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The Rag and Bone Shop

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Terse and terrifying, this final book from Cormier will leave a lasting impression.

Jason, almost 13, is a shy, ineffectual child, who takes being bullied as a matter of course—but if he sees someone else being pushed around, he may strike back. When the seven-year-old girl who lives next door is murdered, Jason is horrified. He was the last one to see her alive. He wants to do everything he can to help find the killer, so when the police come calling, he tells them all he knows. What he doesn't know is that Trent, a detective adept at extracting confessions, has been called into the case—and Trent has Jason in his sights as the murderer. Cormier presents a cat-and-mouse game so tense that readers will feel they must escape the pages just as Jason wants to extricate himself from the stuffy, cell-like room where his interrogation is taking place.

176 pages, Paperback

First published October 9, 2001

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About the author

Robert Cormier

53 books575 followers
Robert Edmund Cormier (January 17, 1925–November 2, 2000) was an American author, columnist and reporter, known for his deeply pessimistic, downbeat literature. His most popular works include I Am the Cheese, After the First Death, We All Fall Down and The Chocolate War, all of which have won awards. The Chocolate War was challenged in multiple libraries. His books often are concerned with themes such as abuse, mental illness, violence, revenge, betrayal and conspiracy. In most of his novels, the protagonists do not win.

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5 stars
911 (26%)
4 stars
1,222 (35%)
3 stars
923 (26%)
2 stars
274 (7%)
1 star
109 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 454 reviews
Profile Image for Melki.
5,589 reviews2,310 followers
February 17, 2017
"Look, Jason. I am only stating what they think. I am trying to show you the seriousness of your situation. You are their prime suspect. They have evidence against you. No one else fits the profile . . . ."

A seven-year-old girl has been murdered, and the police are convinced her killer was the last person to see her alive - a twelve-year-old boy. Now, a hot-shot detective has been called in to try and coax a confession from the boy. But, will he cross a line to get the desired results?

This was an unsettling read. The subject matter is dark, and though none of the characters are likable, the reader does feel a certain sympathy toward the young suspect. His interrogator's techniques, so effective when used on adults, seem cruel and conniving when employed on a child. I'm also not convinced any testimony coerced from a minor without the presence of a parent would be admissible in court.

Anyway, it's a short, tense read with a shocker ending. My rating is not higher because I felt a bit manipulated by the whole experience, but you may enjoy it more than I did.

It does leave you wondering - who is really the guilty party here?
Profile Image for Rachel.
37 reviews
December 10, 2009
I’m trying very hard not to like this book. I know that sounds prejudiced, but at least I’m honest. In fact, I decided after being introduced to Robert Cormier’s style that I would not like this book. I have always been a fan of happy endings.
(Let me clarify: by happy endings, I don’t mean “And they lived happily ever after.” I mean emotional resolution and satisfaction. The world may be crumbling around the characters’ heads—sometimes literally, since I read too much fantasy—but the characters still manage to hope for something. Despite the odds, they’ve managed to overcome the conflict or bring the antagonist to justice. That ability to endure, that determination, has always resonated with me as a reader.)
But for not having a happy ending, Rag and Bone Shop was an awesome book.
I’ve mentioned in previous papers that I hate books that force me to feel a certain way. I worried in the beginning that Rag and Bone Shop would be one of those books: Cormier does a wonderful job of making Jason a sympathetic character, and I feared that the novel would quickly become a feel-bad-for-me, the-adults-are-picking-on-me story.
However, it was the presence of that sympathy that made the book work for me; yes, I worried about Jason, but not because I felt obligated to. Instead, I spent most of the book fuming about the injustice. I didn’t pay much attention to Jason compared to the time I spent thinking about the police lieutenant. I knew Jason wasn’t the killer. I knew practically from the beginning that the brother was the killer. And yet, in the name of money and his reputation, some cop decides to humiliate Jason. It was wrong, but I seemed to be the only person to notice that.
Having said that, I will admit that I loved the ending(s) of the book. I finished the last chapter and thought, “Wow. Cormier has acknowledged my frustration and pointed out the true conflict of the story. I can sleep peacefully now.” I loved Trent’s guilt, and though it sickened me that the police acted like nothing had happened, I loved how that injustice got me thinking about politics in the real world.
And then Cormier dropped a bombshell in the epilogue. As much as I enjoyed the rest of the book, this is what I wanted to see. Congrats, cops, you drove this poor kid insane. Now everyone will know that you forced an innocent to confess because you wanted to advance your own motives.
Yes, it’s a gruesome ending. Yes, there is no hope at the end of the book. But if a happy ending is solely based on the villain getting what’s coming to them, I would argue that Rag and Bone Shop has a happy ending.
Profile Image for Josiah.
3,203 reviews142 followers
January 26, 2021
Oh my, oh my, oh my. I don't feel I am exaggerating one bit when I say this book stands apart from anything else that has ever seen publication. I know that's an outrageous claim, but I suspect it's true.

Hours after reading it, the panicky, weighty feeling of this book courses through my veins and shadows my every thought. From the earliest stages of the plot, dark, frightening storm clouds loom close by and it becomes increasingly obvious that we are headed for a devastating upheaval that will be difficult to handle. I just didn't anticipate how intolerable it would get.

As the special interrogator Trent commences working his skills on young Jason—the twelve-year-old secretly suspected murderer of a precocious seven-year-old girl—the writing is so tensely vivid that it is not hyperbolic in the least to say that it actually felt as if I were being interrogated with Jason, my own life on the line depending on the next several hours. Worse yet, Jason doesn't know that the police suspect him of the murderous act of which he has been accused behind closed doors, and the expert Trent weaves his way through the spare facts of the case like a deadly spider, slowly, excruciatingly tying Jason up in his web as the light of freedom and life imperceptibly begins to depart.

It's hard to convey the severe, raw intensity of how this situation moves forward, or to describe the unrivaled genius of author Robert Cormier that makes it all so profoundly, hauntingly affecting, but my whole body was shaking as the unbearable climax of the narrative closed in, as the heat elevated (physically and metaphorically) and the scene became more disturbing. I was shaking so hard that I could scarcely turn the pages, and sweat poured down my brow and my stomach churned and I felt as if I were in danger, as if this story had become mine and each line that I read would reveal my own fate. As the climax drew near and everything for Jason and Trent came down to a final moment of pure torturous agony, I sobbed and sobbed and could no longer even see the pages through the tears that would not stop coming. More than an hour later, chills still ran throughout my body. No book has ever affected me this way before. Not even close.

I have never known of another writer with the pure, awesome, dreadful power possessed by Robert Cormier. The Rag and Bone Shop is not only a no-brainer five star book for me, it is clearly one of the greatest books I have ever experienced. I did not know that writing could be this stunningly powerful, and even that is an understatement. In my opinion every person alive should read this book. It is an absolute, unequivocal life-changer in the truest sense of the word. I'm still in shock...
Profile Image for Chris Davis.
96 reviews6 followers
July 30, 2017
This was literally me finishing this book:

For the record, I learned how to embed gifs just for this review. (Ok, so I asked a friend, but the result is the same.)

Is this book well written? Yes. Is it an intense read? Yes.

None of that changes the fact I will not get back the time I spent reading it.
Profile Image for Rod Brown.
4,966 reviews164 followers
October 20, 2020
Massachusetts police call in a Vermont interrogation specialist to see if he can get a confession out of a 12-year-old boy they suspect of killing a 7-year-old girl. Things get pretty intense when the door closes and the questioning begins. Awful dark for a book that seems targeted to a younger audience, but it does seem like something my daughter would have enjoyed when she was in middle school.
Profile Image for Anna.
936 reviews106 followers
April 12, 2008
The Rag and Bone Shop is an exciting, suspense-filled read that sucks you in and keeps you reading page after page in anticipation of finding out what happens.

The premise for the story is that a 12-year-old boy named Jason is the last person to see his 7-year-old friend alive. Her brutally murdered body is recovered and the police suspect him. They bring in an "expert" interrogator to get him to confess and much of the book focuses on the interaction of the interrogator and Jason in the small, hot interrogation room.

The novel is dark in the way that is typical for Cormier, yet its beauty lies in way that he portrays human nature and vulnerability through Jason. It leaves the reader wondering about truth and questioning the black-and-whiteness of the world.

Quite honestly, I think this is one of the best young adult books I've read in quite some time. It's very fast-paced and engaging and I think it's the ideal book to recommend to middle school boys who usually hate reading.
Profile Image for Sariah.
172 reviews40 followers
March 4, 2020
Let's be clear: I like darker themes. I really, really do. I plan on dedicating my life to Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. (Ethos appeal for ya.) I believe in exposing YA populations to some element of darkness. We shouldn't shy away from darker themes.

However, however, however!

I did not like this book, nor did I feel like it had much (keyword:much) literary merit. The story was fragmented, showing two different POV—the investigator and 12 year-old Jason—but instead of helping me get to know two characters, I felt I only got to know each character halfway. It felt fractured, unresolved, and didn't include much intentionality on the part of the author. I did like the descriptions of the characters.

YA books usually have a main character that is about two years older than the intended audience. The main character was 12 years-old. I would never, ever give this book to a ten year-old. There didn't seem to be a "purpose" or "message" to this book, except to "Trust Nobody and everyone is a secret killer in their hearts and can't do anything right." I think there are other books that handle this idea better. Darkness can open our eyes to people and experiences that are different than our own, but they don't have to be hopeless or jarring for the sake of being jarring.

I know that there are really awful things that happen in life. Life is not all rainbows and butterflies, but I prefer to read literature that ends on a semi-hopeful note. I don't need much; I'm not asking that every book have a poetic "Anne of Green Gables,"ending where Gilbert and Anne finally become friends. In the genre of horror or suspense or darkness, all I need is something like Hawthorne's "Wakefield," returning home after 20 years or the narrator in "The Black Cat" getting justice he deserves. Someone needs to win at something. Not everyone has to win, but, for me, someone has to win somewhere.

Rant over.
Profile Image for Scott Sanders.
Author 17 books28 followers
April 3, 2008
Because my writing and books are compared to Robert Cormier, I've been on a reading binge lately with regards to his stuff. You will see a large list of his books that I've read in the last month or so.

The Rag and Bone Shop: My favorite of Cormier's work. The suspense will keep the reader on the edge of their seat all the way through. Trent, the bad cop/interrogator, will make the reader squirm with uneasiness. My only complaint is the very last part. Don't worry, I won't spoil it, but Cormier's editor should have cut the last little section. If he/she had, Cormier would have ended his life's work on the ultimate note of perfection. With all that being said, I now just choose to forget that last little part, pretending it isn't there, and give him Five Stars all the same. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Gerhard.
72 reviews25 followers
July 7, 2017
I do not know of any other so-called YA author who quite so comfortably and effortlessly crossed the increasingly indistinct border between novels for younger readers and novels for adult readers in the course of his writing career. (I personally hate these rather artificial boundaries that are imposed on literature. I think dozens of fine, noteworthy novels go unread by older readers because they are marketed as YA. I am not referring to the endless stream of dystopian novels and serial fantasy sagas that seem to make up such an inordinately large portion of YA novels nowadays. I'm talking about finely crafted and deftly executed novels. Think Michael Morpurgo, or John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.)

There are many adult readers who have enjoyed and appreciated the late Robert Cormier's novels for their originality and the author's keen observing eye. The Rag and Bone Shop, Cormier's last novel, is no exception.

A quiet Massachusetts neighborhood is recoiling in horror as the murdered body of seven-year-old Alicia Bartlett is discovered in a nearby wood. Twelve-year-old Jason Dorrant was the last person to see her alive, and naturally the investigating police officer is quick to read some significance into this. There is pressure on the police when a senator becomes interested in the case. Soon there is talk of employing the services of Trent, a police officer from Vermont known for his tenacious tactics in the interrogation room and the fact that he is guaranteed to wrestle a confession out of any suspect. Under the guise of an elaborate subterfuge Jason is brought to the police station and placed in a dreary little room without windows where he is brought face-to-face with the formidable Trent, who has only a couple of hours in which to get a confession out of the boy.

The biggest part of the novel is devoted to the interrogation that follows. No punches are pulled and what transpires in that little room will leave any perceptive reader with sweaty palms, a racing heart and a feeling of slowly mounting outrage. Nightmarish, claustrophobic and unrelentingly intense, this is an uncompromising book with an ending that will leave most readers reeling.
Profile Image for Moe.
354 reviews14 followers
June 16, 2017
What started off as just one out of his numerous interrogations, Trent discovered in the end right after the kid confessed that he was the wrong suspect. Trent was infamously known for his interrogations, up until Jason. He would get the truth out of anybody; the worst criminals who were bad to the bone. But Jason was just a little boy, who was completely innocent. But Trent was so good at interrogating, he made Jason fake-confess about him evidently being the killer. Luckily, they found out who was the real perp, and Jason was let off scot-free. What made this book so interesting was the ending. Jason was dealing with some emotional problems and decided that he would prove to people that he actually could kill someone, and went to grab the butcher knife from the kitchen and went to go actually kill someone. So, being abused by the interrogator into confessing he was the killer (when he was not) actually turned him into one. That is some crazy stuff man. I love books like this, where I don't know the ending. I suggest this to anyone who loves books that make you think
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Briana.
498 reviews19 followers
July 5, 2013
I loved this book!! Of you just want a day read ...read this book.

The Rag and Bone Shop is a great suspense style book. There was a murder of a 7 year old girl and that brings a 12year old boy Jason.
[spoilers removed ]
Anyone that wants a suspense filled day read this is the book you need. *BEWARE* beware there is a twist at the end....Great Book :-))))
110 reviews2 followers
October 12, 2019
Let's go down to where all the ladders start.

Hello friends! I am excited to be writing another review today. This review will be one of those where I say a lot of things, some just general and some about the book. I'll try to mark where I talk about the book specifically if you're just interested in that. Down we go.

First I would like to begin where I often do: why I read this book. Okay, so I recently reviewed American Psycho. When I did, my mom said I was just in time for Goodreads' Halloween week. I honestly find it strange that Goodreads only had this for a week (some books are long and take more than a week to read because some of us have jobs, Goodreads!). Anyway, this inspired me to read Darkly Dreaming Dexter, just for the Halloween spirit, but that was another disappointment. I had marked as Want To Read the book Hold Still, and my mom informed me that she had requested it from the library for me. This was not a high priority book for me, but since she had requested it, I began reading it on open library. The writing was nice, but the plot was boring so I stopped. But I still wanted to read something, since I had already gotten into the idea of reading another book. I knew I didn't want to re-read something, but I didn't want to waste more time on a book I wouldn't like.

Robert Cormier is probably my favorite author. The first book I read of his was The Chocolate War, and it is still my favorite book. I read Beyond the Chocolate War soon enough after and perhaps liked it even better than its predecessor. Then I read some less appealing books of his, After the First Death and Heroes. I realized that Robert Cormier seems to write the same idea repeatedly. This used to be something that bothered me. I find it a lot with male authors (yes, male). For example, I made a plan once to read all of F. Scott Fitzgerald's books so I'd have substance for my arguments of why I dislike him. I eventually stopped after three or four books because they were all exactly the same idea. Another example, after reading Blake Crouch's Recursion, my mom got Dark Matter from the library. I advised her not to read it since many on Goodreads said Recursion was the same idea as Dark Matter, but she read it anyway and it made her like Recursion less because it was just the same idea again. I don't know what my point is here. Sometimes when authors repeat ideas it's bad, tiresome; it ruins the originality of the first time you faced it. For me with After the First Death and Heroes, I definitely felt less appreciation for Cormier's work. It was all the same, he was bound to make a hit at some point. But The Chocolate War has always held a special place in my heart. After thinking all these things, I saw a post somewhere encouraging artists to reiterate on the same idea again and again, that it was okay to visit the same concept and rewrite/redraw/recreate it. I really liked this post and it made me feel better about exploring themes I had touched on before in my own writing. It made me realize that revisiting the same idea is what gets you to that eventual masterpiece. After I read I Am the Cheese, I was reminded of what first struck me about Cormier's writing. Cormier's Wikipedia says "In most of his novels, the protagonists do not win." I knew this, but still the way he writes it strikes me. Cormier is brilliant in not only putting emotions into words but in getting them to jump off the page and into the reader's heart. Cormier's writing always stirs strong emotions within me. Though not the most pleasant emotions, it still shows a great deal for the power of his writing.

So I decided to read The Rag and Bone Shop, because I knew it would make me feel something and it would entertain me. The reason I chose this book and not another of Cormier's is because this title has stuck with me for a while. Cormier makes brilliant titles -- The Chocolate War, After the First Death, Except When Shaving Don't Look in Mirrors (changed by editors to Another of Mike's Girls). Cormier's titles are so intriguing that they make you want to pick up the book. This title was enticing, and since the story is about a murder, I thought it would be a good last pick for Goodreads' Halloween week. The title actually comes from a Yeats poem. I like when Cormier references poetry in his writing; this is also something he did in The Chocolate War.

So let's talk about this book. I was surprised to learn this was Cormier's last novel. It feels like a beginner book in some ways. It's pretty short, focuses on just one event really (an interrogation), and it seems to be an initial fleshing out of some of Cormier's main themes (i.e. betrayal). Also, some elements felt haphazard / rushed almost (like the Bobo plotline and the end, which I will elaborate on in a bit). I wasn't sure if this was how Cormier wrote/intended it, or if editors finished the book for him / did not edit it much since it was published posthumously. I could not find much information on whether or not he completed it and was fully confident in it before dying.

With the plot, I found the end of part II very predictable from the get-go, though it still made me feel things. The beginning of part III was a bit of a surprise. The end of part III was also a bit startling. Though the way Cormier wrote the thought process of the character made it make a bit of sense I still found it generally unrealistic. I also found it unrealistic when Trent quoted the poem from which the title originates and Sarah got the reference. When have you ever quoted a poem in real life and someone else immediately knew its author? Do you know how many poems there are in the world? I liked Sarah Downes' character and wish we got to hear more from her, though I understand she wasn't very relevant to the plot. I also liked how Alicia's character was described. I especially liked Jason Dorrant. I liked how he is a bit of a slow kid so he mostly hangs out with those younger than him. I obviously didn't like Braxton . I also didn't like Trent.

So overall, I was definitely intrigued by the book enough to read it fairly quickly though I found it predictable just because I know Cormier's writing. The writing was still great. I love the words Cormier uses and the way he writes his young characters, it just feels so genuine. I loved the first part of Part III but really disliked the end of Part III. For those reasons, it's a three star book. However, I think it's about at the same level as After the First Death, to which I gave four stars on here.
Profile Image for Dramapuppy.
387 reviews44 followers
October 23, 2020
This book made me feel a lot of things, but unfortunately, the most prominent one was anger. I love books that make me feel dread, and I can respect some frustration or sadness. This book provided plenty of all of those feelings. But I don't love books that make me angry, and I was angry pretty much the whole time I was reading this, up to and especially during the ending.

Still, this is well-written and a quick read. I would almost recommend it. I just didn't like it very much.
Profile Image for Adele.
722 reviews20 followers
October 5, 2020
Dark and chilling. This was a very quick, intense read.
80 reviews
June 19, 2018
The Rag and Bone Shop is quintessential Cormier: a tightly woven plot, memorable characters (both innocent and morally ambiguous), ironic twists, and a fluid narrative style. The title is an allusion to "The Circus Animals' Desertion," a poem by William Butler Yeats. In the poem, Yeats reflects briefly on the various stages of his career as an artist. He ultimately arrives at the end of his analysis with the following lines: "I must lie down where all the ladders start,/In the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart." All inspiration for an artist must begin at the bottom of his or her own heart, where the seeds of conflict, joy, and sorrow are all sown. The final two lines of Yeats' poem, while serving as a mantra for Trent, the interrogator in the novel, may also serve as a farewell from Cormier himself. After all, The Rag and Bone Shop was the final published work by Robert Cormier. He, like Yeats, may have had ideas that his career was coming to a close; the novel was published shortly after his death in November of 2000. It is quite possible that Cormier made use of this allusion to Yeats as a nod to his readers, sensing the end was in sight.

In works such as Tenderness and Fade, Cormier explores the following question: "Can 'monsters' be redeemed?" In those novels, we are given very brief accounts or clues as to the origination of the evil found in Cormier's antagonists. What is of more significance is tracking the influence of the protagonists over their counterparts to see whether or not things like love, respect, and loyalty can overcome the evil within. Not so with The Rag and Bone Shop. The question to be answered is the exact opposite: "Can 'monsters' be created?" It is not until the very end of the novel that we are hit with Cormier's answer.

As with most of Cormier's works, we are given clues to each of the characters one small step at a time. Jason Dorrant, the twelve-year-old protagonist, is innocent at heart. He is slightly mentally and emotionally stunted, preferring to interact with children younger than himself. He is compassionate and rails against bully-like behavior. He likes science fiction and horror stories, and is in the midst of a Stephen King novel when he is first introduced. The novel takes one of its many twists when the police finger him as the prime suspect in the murder of a local seven-year-old girl. Trent, the interrogator hired to help find out the truth as to Jason's innocence or guilt, has to ask some difficult questions. When he first sits down with Jason, Trent wonders: "Was there evil in this boy? Was he capable of an evil act?" As he quickly reflects on a former case, Trent answers himself..."We are all capable." This would prove to be an ominously premonitory statement as we see Trent begin the slow descent into the "rag-and-bone shop" of his own heart. Promotion, ego, fame, and political pressure all fan Trent's desire to worm a confession out of Jason. Is Trent willing to sacrifice truth and the life of an adolescent for these prizes? Cormier will eventually provide the answer.

In conclusion, one of the major themes that permeates The Rag and Bone Shop is that of "innocence protected." I find that the events of this novel are symbolically represented by the description of the death of Trent's wife: "She had been the victim of a freak accident, a minor collision of automobiles in which the air bag and seat belt conspired to cause her death--trapped by the safety devices suddenly turned lethal. Lottie died during the night, without regaining consciousness." Those items which should have preserved and protected Lottie's life, in turn, served as her destroyers. Parents, the police, the local politician, the interrogator--do they help preserve and protect Jason (and the innocence he represents), or do they unwittingly trap him? Will Jason and his innocence prevail, or will they die, like Lottie, without regaining consciousness? To find out, all one has to do is lie down where Cormier's "ladders start" and read the "foul rag-and-bone shop" of his heart.
34 reviews
May 31, 2010
The Rag and Bone Shop by Robert Cormier. The main characters are Jason Durant, a 12 year old boy and a man named Trent who is an interrogator for the police. The story takes place in Monument, Mass. He was looking forward to the summer vacation when suddenly the town was hit with the murder of Alicia Bartlett, a seven year old girl. She was Jason's friend. There was no weapon, clues, or fingerprints. The only thing the police knew was that Jason was the last person to see her alive. Lt. Braxton from the police department came to his house to question him, but he really didn't have any information to give him.The police decided to call in a special interrogator named Trent to question Jason. He had a reputation for always getting a confession. The town was demanding an arrest and the police decided that Jason was the only suspect. They hoped that Trent could get a confession so that the pressure would be off the police. When Jason was taken to the police department, he went without his mother. Four other boys were also bought to the station and they thought it was neat because they were part of the investigation. A woman named Sarah Downey from the District Attorney's office rode with Trent so that she could give him background information on the case. Trent asked her if she thought Jason was guilty and she said no. She felt the police was giving into town pressure. The interrogation room was small and hot which is the way Trent wanted it. He did not want Jason to be comfortable. Trent put Jason at ease, analyzed him and his body language and never used the word murder. Trent started asking questions and Jason asked him why he was asking certain questions. He got nervous and wanted to leave. He asked Trent for something to drink, and while he was gone, Jason left. Trent found him in the parking lot and told him that if he left, he would look guilty. Jason went back and the questions started again. Trent asked why he was friends with a 7 year old and he was 12. He wanted him to talk about anything that was bothering him. Did he have any anger or regrets? Did he go to her school during recess? Did he like her and want to touch or kiss her? Jason's reaction to these questions led him to believe he was innocent. He felt sorry for Jason and wanted to end the interrogation. Jason wondered if he should tell that Alicia's brother, Brad, seemed to be angry with her that day. He didn't because he was always teasing her. They started talking about where the body was found. He asked Jason had he ever been there and Jason said yea. He then wanted to know if he thought the death was planned or just something that happened on the spur of the moment. He kept questioning Jason like this. Jason kept denying any part in the murder. Trent began to doubt himself. He wondered whether he had met someone who outwitted him and deceived him. I would rate this book a 3. The internal conflict Trent had was that he began to feel that Jason was innocent, but he had a reputation of getting confessions and he was determined to try to get one. But, he kept having doubts because he felt Jason was innocent and wanted to send him home. He also felt he had to do his job so he continued the questioning. The text-to-world connection is that things like this also happen today. Sometimes a person is questioned so much and in such a way that they finally confess. One of the problems here was that Jason was a minor and he did not have a lawyer present during questioning.

they started talking
Profile Image for Miss.
34 reviews
November 8, 2012
Plot Summary

Jason is a young boy who liked Alicia. Alicia was murdered, and the police suspect that Jason was responsible because he was the last person known to be seen with her. Trent, an interrogator who has been successful in getting suspects to confess, tries to get Jason to confess. Jason was called in for questioning,so the remainder of the book focuses on Trent trying to get that confession. Jason tells him that he did not commit the crime, but Trent uses many of his tactics to extract a confession from him. For example, he offers to get a drink for Jason, to which he returns without it. This was to make Jason recognize his thirst and make him more uncomfortable. In the end, it was concluded that Jason did not commit the crime, but instead it was her brother, Brad, who had argued with her the day she was discovered.

Personal Reaction

At first I was convinced that Jason committed the crime because that would be a typical way the book would end. On the other hand, it did not happen in this case, and Cormier took the unconventional approach, by not letting Jason ultimately be the perpetrator. The in book, in some way satisfied me. But it still left a gap in why Trent worked so hard to get him to confess.

Critical Reaction

I think Cormier did a great job in what he did. For example, the setting was very intense. For him to do that takes real talent because it places the characters in a very difficult situation. The scene needs to be ongoing and moving, but the scene remained in the interrogation room. This made it very effective.

Suggested Age

43 reviews1 follower
December 7, 2010
The first time I read this book as a teenager, I loved it. The second time, I loved it again. Maybe the fact that I love this deeply disturbing book is a bad sign for my mental health, but I think that it is an amazing little novel of such power. Its commentary on manipulation and the power of suggestion is great. Twelve-year-old Jason's friend Alicia is murdered, and he is brought into questioning. The book traces through the interrogation, from the perspectives of both the interrogator and Jason. It should be boring to read about two people talking in a cramped room, but the novel will have you on the edge of your seat the whole time. In the end, an innocent Jason confesses to murder. Though another boy is found to be guilty, Jason isn't able to get over the effects of the interrogation. And, thinking if he could admit to murder he could commit one, he picks up a butcher knife. . . This book is great, but I would only recommend it to people who like Edgar Allen Poe. It takes a certain kind of reader to appreciate Cormier.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
16 reviews1 follower
July 3, 2010
I found this to be one of the most unique mystery novels I’ve read yet. Cormier did an excellent job with this young adult detective story. The whole plot is based around the interrogation of a murder suspect: 12 year old Jason (who is the last person to see the 7 year old girl who was murdered). What makes this book so powerful is we know that Jason is innocent the entire time. So where’s the mystery you’re wondering? Well it revolves around the twists and turns that go on between the interrogation of Jason with his interrogator Trent. Cormier shifts point of view so that we are exposed to the extreme and changing emotions of both parties. All I can say is: intense. I read this book in one sitting as I just couldn’t put it down. The ending WILL surprise you. What I liked best was the subtle reflection Cormier presents to us of the very morals of our society. A genius!
Profile Image for J.J..
126 reviews33 followers
December 3, 2021
Really cool that this book is explicitly about how the cycle of violence is perpetuated by those with authority and the power structures they uphold. Trent is a self-serving and sociopathic investigator who will even throw a child under the bus to meet his narcissistic agenda, and it's clear from the start that Jason isn't guilty, making it clear that this isn't meant to be viewed as a moral dilemma, but that those who have the means to will use whatever tactics they can to secure their status for power/profit motive. This leads to a conclusion rife with a sort of Shakespearean irony that had me grinning ear to ear in its cleverness, and Cormier's prose is cerebral and direct as usual, so when the anvils are dropped the message isn't obfuscated. A great read and can be finished in one sitting.
30 reviews
June 11, 2010
This is a creepy mystery that kept me at the edge of my seat while reading. The plot is very simple. A young boy named Jason is the last person to see young Alicia Bartlett alive, therefore, he is accused of murdering her. The detectives bring in an expert interrogator who is known for getting confessions to do just that with Jason. Nearly 75 percent of the book is the interrogation. The result of the interrogation is very surprising and the end of the novel is more so. I think this book is suitable for any junior high age student or older. The subject matter may be a little bit too dark for anyone younger than junior high. There is a great psychological twist in the book, and I think that young readers will find it interesting. I would definitely recommend this book.
Profile Image for Ellen.
124 reviews5 followers
December 10, 2009
Another masterpiece of the dark and disturbing from Cormier, this, his last book.
At our last YAL class, the others in my group couldn't get over how completely dark The Chocolate War was.

I must lie down where all the ladders start,
In the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart.

How much of Jason did Trent get right? Or were Jason's last reasonings caused by Trent? Do Jason and Trent's thoughts on what we are capable of apply to each of us? Yes.
6 reviews
November 12, 2014
I thought that this book was pretty good. The only thing that was bad about the book is it was pretty slow and did not have a lot of action through the first 130 pages. Once you get to the end it gets very interesting and makes you sit on the edge of your seat. For a horror book this did not have as much horror as I thought it was going to have which was a disappointment to me because I was looking forward to it. If you want a good book with some scares this is your book.
Profile Image for Julie Suzanne.
1,870 reviews66 followers
July 14, 2010
This was a very different kind of abuse story. Another disturbing Cormier novel, but this one a quick read. I always wonder, at the end, why I did that to myself. Why am I so drawn to these, knowing before I even begin that I'm going to be disturbed and depressed as a result? I'll never look at the issue of interrogation and "confession" the same way again. Worth reading.
Profile Image for Kathi.
14 reviews
April 6, 2009
I picked this up as an audiobook and couldn't put it down. You think you know how it is going to end until the end. It leaves you going NOOOOOO. I really enjoyed the book. It did give me nightmares. As a mother of teens, my heart just aches.
Profile Image for Stefani.
587 reviews31 followers
April 9, 2009
OMG SO SCARY. Not as in horror movie, but as in totally freaky. The whole time my heart hurt for the poor kid and it reinforces the idea that adults can't be trusted.

Cormier is a fantastic writer with amazing, horrible endings.
Profile Image for Betsy.
454 reviews10 followers
November 21, 2012
Chilling look at the power of persuasion. I've only read 2 of Cormier's books (this one & The Chocolate War), but both have had this... manipulation of children by adults as a central theme. Very disturbing.
Profile Image for Marci Glasgow-Haire.
199 reviews2 followers
August 24, 2010
A quick, but troubling read. This book highlights the fact that children's psyches are more fragile than is commonly believed.
Profile Image for Théo.
143 reviews40 followers
July 22, 2021
"À la brocante du coeur" est un livre policier dans lequel on va suivre Jason, un garçon de 12 ans qui va être accusé de meurtre lors de la découverte du corps d'Alicia, une petite fille qu'il est le dernier à avoir vu vivante. Trent est quant à lui l'enquêteur chargé de faire avouer Jason, et une grosse partie de l'histoire se déroulera durant l'interrogatoire qu'il mènera.

Alors. Que dire. Certes le roman se lit très vite (je l'ai terminé en 1h30), mais c'est bien le seul point positif que je lui ai trouvé.

En fait tout va BEAUCOUP trop vite. Les personnages, les actions, les dialogues, tout est résumé trop simplement, et à la fin du récit j'ai juste eu l'impression d'effleurer une histoire, mais pas d'y plonger totalement.
Je n'ai pas compris les réactions des personnages (surtout Trent pendant l'interrogatoire, son discours et ses pensées m'exaspéraient), l'intérêt de la pseudo-romance qui se crée, et je ne me suis vraiment attaché à rien.
La fin est assez grotesque, l'épilogue de Trent également, celui de Jason un peu mieux réussi, mais à ce stade j'avais déjà commencé à effacer ce livre de ma mémoire.

Vous l'aurez compris, je vous recommande très peu (euphémisme) ce roman policier. Il s'agit du dernier livre que l'auteur ait écrit avant son décès, et c'est peut-être pour ça qu'il semble aussi peu abouti.
J'espère en tout cas beaucoup plus apprécier le prochain texte de Robert Cormier que je découvrirais.

PS : apparemment il s'agirait d'un roman YA. J'ai eu moi-même du mal à définir cela pendant ma lecture, mais peut-être qu'effectivement tout l'aspect psychologique de l'histoire conviendrait à cette tranche d'âge. Moi ça m'a juste fait lever les yeux au ciel ^^'
31 reviews1 follower
December 14, 2017

This book is a whirlwind! It's about a shy thirteen year old boy who is trying to help out his town, when a murder is on the loose and kills his innocent seven-year-old friend. He was the last one to see her, but he knows that he didn't kill her . . . or did he? He is secretly interrogated by Trent, a man with a perfect record at getting people to confess, that he goes at great lengths to get Jason to confess, even though Trent knows that he didn't do it. The book messes with your mind as you try to understand the dark confusion between truth and error and between lies and the truth. If you say you did it, even though you didn't, does that still technically mean you did? Do you now need to follow through with your lie to make it a truth? This book is a rollercoaster of emotions that lives you shocked all the way to the last page.

I loved this book! It is so sneaky and disturbing all at the same time. It broke my heart to see Trent rip Jason apart, and I hated how he was using all of his tools against him. It has made me want to read more of Cormier's books. As crazy as it was, it is a favorite of mine.
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