The Rag and Bone Shop


The Rag and Bone Shop

"The Rag and Bone Shop" (2001) is a book written by Robert Cormier. The book was published posthumously in 2001; Cormier died in 2000.

infobox Book |
name = The Rag and Bone Shop
title_orig =
translator =


image_caption =
author = Robert Cormier
illustrator =
cover_artist = Victor Stabin
country = United States
language = English
series =
genre = young adult fiction
reading level = 9-12 years
publisher = Delacorte Books for Young Readers
release_date = Oct 9 2001
english_release_date =
media_type =
pages = 154
isbn = 978-0385729628 (hardcover) 978-0440229711 (paper back)

Characters in "The Rag and Bone Shop"

Trent - no first name given. Widower, Special Interrogator called in to investigate a murder. Has never lost a case. Jason Dorrant - 12 year old. Friend of Victim and last known person to see victim alive. Alicia Bartlett - 7 years old, Intelligent, murder victim, her body carefully treated after; dress smoothed, “buried” under leaves Brad Bartlett - brother of victim. Jokester. Emma Dorrant - Jason’s little sister,7 years old, Didn’t like Alicia, Writing a mystery novel George Braxton - Detective, Uses instinct, Finds Jason to be the only suspect, Calls in Trent to interrogate Jason Sarah Downes - Works for the District Attorney, Doesn’t like interrogations – thinks methods may give false results, Reminds Trent of dead wife.

Plot summary

The story is of the brutal murder of a seven year 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, is called in for the case. Trent does this "favor" to be in good graces with a senator.

Under the guise of "helping" the investigation, Jason is brought to police headquarters and introduced to Trent. After a long session of questioning, Jason is eventually driven to his breaking point and, innocent though he was, is pushed to confessing to the murder. Earlier in the book, Jason recounts an encounter with a bully in school who molested a girl and regularly tortured fellow students. Jason was pushed accidentally in the lunch line by the bully and Jason punched the bully (Bobo Kelton) to the floor, but to the principal, it appeared to be an act of spontaneous aggression. This was mentioned by Trent and labeled "violent tendencies." This, plus being seen last with Alicia, was enough to make him the prime suspect, and was part of Trent's manipulations to convince Jason of his guilt.

Immediately after Jason confesses, Trent steps from the room excited about his latest win just to find out that the alibi of the brother of the murdered girl, Brad, has been broken and his friends told the truth. Jason is released, but the damage has been done.

The book ends with Jason wondering whether he could or could not commit such a crime as murder, obviously confused by Trent's extraction techniques during the intense interrogation. He thinks of the bully. Knowing the bully would be at the local Y Center, he removes a butcher knife from the kitchen drawer.

Major themes

Irony is used throughout the book, particularly in the ending. When Trent at last extracts a confession out of Jason, he then learns that the real killer has been found. Thus, his seeming salvation has been his downfall.

The novel ends with the frightening ironic scene of Jason becoming a murderer even though he was not actually guilty of any murder before. The idea behind the story is the corruption of innocence because Jason was a normal, peaceful boy and he was only turned into a killer via Trent's ruthless interrogation.

Another theme is found in the repeated phrase, "You are what you do." This is what Trent's wife often told him. Trent's negative influence on Jason resonates through the book's ending. Jason becomes exactly what Trent convinces him that he is.


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