THE RAG AND BONE SHOP by Robert Cormier
Kirkus Star


Age Range: 14 & up
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The late Cormier’s final work is a tense thriller exploring how confession affects those who give it and those who get it. Sometimes it’s not good for the soul, as in this recounting of an innocent boy’s earnest intent to assist in an investigation that has decided he is the culprit and must be coerced to confess. Pared-down characters are matched by straightforward prose in this spare account. Drawing on the Catholic doctrine stating that absolution follows admission of guilt, Cormier inverts the paradigm and shows the effects of confessing when there is no real wrong done. Part one is detective Trent’s extraction of a chilling admission to multiple murders by Carl who seems to have aimlessly slid into doing horrible deeds. In part two readers meet Jason, who slid by in the seventh grade, almost unnoticed, and arrives at the first day of summer vacation looking forward to an easy time. Lacking confidence in himself, he spends time with neighbors more focused on seven-year-old Alicia than the boys his own age whooping it up in the pool. Along the way are glimpses of the detectives and local politicians whose intent is to catch the killer, as quickly as possible for the sake of their own reputations as much as the security of the community. Tension builds as Jason’s earnest desire to see the culprit caught and his internal monologue about the completeness and veracity of his memories counterpoint the clever techniques used. Trent is the priest who not only hears the confession, but extracts it. By the end, the evil has spread like a miasma to cause further death. Highly discussible, the ethical questions contained are intricate and absorbing, but detract not at all from the increasing tension as the story unfolds. Chilling. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: Oct. 9th, 2001
ISBN: 0-385-72962-6
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2001


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