The Rag & Bone Shop

Style: Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable

In Brief: A delicate dialogue between an ambitious and unscrupulous police investigator and a boy, friend to the young children in the area, whose friend has been killed.

Cover of The Rag & Bone Shop

Author: Robert Cormier

Publisher: Hamish Hamilton

Published in: 2001

Age Range: Young Teens

Genres:  Coping withDetective


Jason, a shy 12-year-old, is questioned about the death of his friend Alicia, not realising that the interrogator is already convinced of his guilt.

A young girl is found dead in the woods and there are no clear suspects. The local chief of police is under pressure to produce a suspect and he picks on Jason, a shy 12-year-old friend of the girl, who was the last to see her alive. The police call in a detective who's had a high degree of success in extracting confessions by questioning and he interrogates the boy who merely believes himself to be a useful witness.


A surprisingly readable book, dealing in a play-like way with the difficulties faced by the interrogator as he tries to live up to his past successes, even when he suspects that the boy is entirely innocent.

The actions of the policemen in trying to extract a confession from an impressionable boy without even charging him with an offence are certainly reprehensible. This is made worse when the interrogator realises that the boy is innocent, but continues to pressure him into admitting something he did not do.

Jason's quiet friendship with the children of his neighbourhood.

Sadness welled up within him as he thought of Alicia and the last time he had seen her, not knowing it would be the last time. How he wished he had seen something to help the investigation. How he wished Mr Trent would help him remember a suspicious person he might have forgotten about, although Jason didn't think that was likely. How could he forget something that important so completely? Yet the police, and especially Mr Trent, who was supposed to be an expert at stuff like that, certainly knew more than he did about how the memory worked. In fact, Jason was kind of awed by the way the questioner seemed to know sometimes what he was thinking, like when he had that wild idea about making up a suspicious person. Better be careful, Jason warned himself.

Tuesday 1st January 2002