A 7-year-old girl named Alicia has been brutally murdered -- pounded in the head with a rock -- in the woods near Monument, Massachusetts. Twelve-year-old Jason Dorrant, a friend of Alicia's, is the prime suspect because he was the last person known to have seen her alive, although there's no physical evidence to tie him to the crime. There's heavy pressure to arrest a suspect, partly because the victim was a friend of Senator Gibbons's daughter, so the local police bring in Trent, a Vermont detective with a reputation as a crack interrogator who always lands a confession.
Trent is undeniably good, and a confession will surely advance his career with the help of Senator Gibbons. But Trent also despises himself because he may be TOO good at getting people to admit guilt, even when they may not be guilty. In his mind he can hear the warnings of his wife Lottie, sadly killed in an auto accident 18 months before, as he works on Jason. Most of the story consists of Trent's careful and sympathetic questioning of the boy in order to land a confession. This novel was Cormier's final book, completed shortly before his death.
This report prepared by David Loftus