This final novel from the grand master of young-adult fiction is one last jewel in the literary crown of Robert Cormier, who died in November 2000. In it he continues to explore the themes that are so characteristic of his work: guilt and forgiveness, misuse of authority, and the corruption of innocence. But a new book from Cormier is always a surprise, and here he gives us a brilliant evocation of the detective story, in a narrative that centers on the interrogation of a murder suspect.
A 7-year-old girl has been battered to death, and there are no suspects, no leads. The police, under political pressure to make an arrest, bring in Trent, a cold, ambitious professional interrogator who prides himself on his ability to extract confessions. His victim is 12-year-old Jason--the last person to see the girl. We know that Jason is innocent, and halfway through the interrogation Trent realizes it, too, in "a blazing moment." But like a medieval torturer, his goal is confession, not truth, and so he stifles his impulses for good and proceeds with the job, with deeply ironic consequences.
The interrogation itself, which forms the centerpiece of the novel, is dazzling in its elegant thrust-and-parry, its subtle twists and turns, as Jason frantically tries to escape, like a mouse caged with a python. The point of view snaps back and forth so that we are intensely aware of the shifting emotions of both participants in the deadly game. And once again, Cormier has given us an ending that seems provocative and uncomfortable--until we remember that the center of his moral universe was always summed up by the words "if only." (Ages 12 and older) --Patty Campbell [via]