The Rag and Bone Shop

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The Rag and Bone Shop
The Rag and Bone Shop.jpg
AuthorRobert Cormier
Cover artistVictor Stabin
CountryUnited States
GenreYoung adult fiction
PublisherDelacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication date
October 9, 2001
Media typePrint
ISBN978-0-385-72962-8 (hardcover) 978-0440229711 (paper back)
LC ClassPZ7.C81634 Rag 2001
Reading age: 9-13 years

The Rag and Bone Shop (2001) is Robert Cormier's final novel, published October 9, 2001, eleven months after his death. The novel takes its name from the final line of William Butler Yeats's poem "The Circus Animals' Desertion".[1]


Jason Dorrant is a lonely twelve-year-old boy who is a suspect in the brutal murder of Alicia Bartlett, the younger sister of a classmate. Trent, an expert interrogator who is known to get confessions that seem impossible to obtain and who has never lost a case, is called in to interrogate Jason, who is Alicia's friend and the last known person to see her alive. Trent performs the interrogation to win favor with a senator of Massachusetts.

Jason has few friends except Alicia, whom he finds fascinating. He says that she is like a little old lady. Jason was the last person to see Alicia alive and is the prime suspect, although he doesn't know it – Trent tells Jason that the information he is providing is voluntary.

Trent interrogates Jason in a small white-walled room with no ventilation and a single light bulb dangling from the ceiling, and he twists the information that Jason gives him into a distorted story that makes Jason look guilty of Alicia's murder. Trent makes Jason look like a violent maniac simply because he reads and watches science fiction, and Jason believes Trent's fabrication that he is a blood-thirsty killer so strongly that he confesses to the crime.

Trent, with the confession tape in hand, walks towards another detective expecting to be praised for his handiwork, but she looks at Trent accusingly and explains that Alicia's older brother was the killer, not Jason; there were witnesses, and he has been taken into custody. The woman accuses Trent of coercing Jason's confession. Trent is demoted and will never work as an interrogator again.

Jason is left fighting with himself. He cannot decide which image of himself is true: what he thought he was before the interrogation, or what he was told he was: a killer. He ponders, "Did he kill her? No. Could he have killed her? No, but could he kill someone worthy of death? Say, a bully?" In the final twist, Jason fulfills the role that Trent assigned him, grabbing a butcher knife and heading to the nearest YMCA, where bully Bobo Kelton is.


  1. ^ William Butler Yeats. "Poetry, Drama, and Prose". Ed. Patricia Pethica. p.128