The Crocodile Bird

The Crocodile Bird

4.3 9
by Ruth Rendell

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A young woman, sheltered from the outside world, comes to terms with her deluded, murderous mother—and what she must do to survive When the police come to the door at the gatehouse of a remote British estate, sixteen-year-old Liza and her mother know that their lives are about to change forever. After all, Liza watched her mother kill a

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A young woman, sheltered from the outside world, comes to terms with her deluded, murderous mother—and what she must do to survive When the police come to the door at the gatehouse of a remote British estate, sixteen-year-old Liza and her mother know that their lives are about to change forever. After all, Liza watched her mother kill a man—well, more than just one. Having lived as a virtual hermit on the estate, Liza knows nothing of the outside world, but she sets off to find her way with the help of a newly won lover. As she learns about those around her, she begins to discover herself—and just how alike she and her mother might be. Rendell carefully unravels this tale of an obsessive bond between mother and daughter and of hope for a new life in a strange land.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Like a modern-day Scheherazade, young Liza Beck tells her story over a span of nights and in the process finds salvation. After the police question her mother, Eve, about the death of Jonathan Tobias, the owner of Shrove House, 16-year-old Liza runs away with Sean, the young garden hand at the remote English manor. It is to him, over the course of 101 nights, that Liza gradually reveals her strange upbringing, living alone with Eve in the gatehouse of the Tobias estate. Rigorously schooled by her mother, isolated from all society except, on occasion, the mailman or groundskeeper and the few men, including Tobias, whom Eve admits into their world, Liza learns early that others may have something to fear from Eve, but that she does not. Credibility never flags as Edgar Award-winning Rendell ( Kissing the Gunner's Daughter ) reveals the specifics of Liza's increasing contact with the world, creating suspense in the gradually meted out details of Eve's intense attachment to Shrove House and her determination to protect Liza from civilization. Although unpredictable, the payoff seems a little weak and the careful pace somewhat slow; nevertheless, there are no holes in this psychological puzzler that has a strong afterlife. Author tour. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Putting this title in the mystery collection may be slightly misleading since the killer's identity is revealed early on, but listeners will find the tale as addictive as any whodunit. Seventeen-year-old Liza reveals her life story, Sheherazade-like, to her lover: raised in near isolation by her mother in a remote place, she finds herself abruptly sent away when her mother is arrested for murder. More than one man has disappeared after threatening her mother's peaceful lifestyle, and Liza must learn to live with the legacy of murder. Narrator Lisanne Cole is excellent, and the attractive packaging will entice listeners, but the story suffers some in abridged form. Recommended if budget woes will not allow for purchase of an unabridged version (if and when it becomes available).-- Luana Ellis, Jamestown Community Coll. Lib., Olean, N.Y.
School Library Journal
YA-Beautiful Eve lives in isolation as caretaker of a remote, (mostly) vacant British estate, where she raises and educates her illegitimate daughter, Liza, away from any modern influences. She becomes involved with men from time to time, but if her privacy is threatened in any way, she murders them. When the police finally catch on and come to arrest Eve, Liza flees. She goes straight to the arms of an admiring young groundskeeper, who gladly welcomes her into his modest home (a van) and into his heart. Now that Liza has tasted freedom, though, she is reluctant to tie herself down, and she rejects her lover's eventual proposal of marriage. She takes the money that Sean offers her along with the van, and sets off on her own. Teens will be intrigued by this dark, multilayered story. Is Liza someone to be pitied, having been raised in total isolation by a half-mad mother, or is she the feminist ideal-intelligent, independent, and resourceful? The Crocodile Bird provides much food for thought for mature teens who have a taste for the unexpected.-Susan R. Farber, Chappaqua Public Library, NY
Stuart Whitwell
Let's begin with something simple, like the plot. A bright young woman, made angry by personal tragedy and her artsy, liberal, and elitist hostility to the modern world, lives as the manager of a remote country home. The wealthy owner, whom Eve had once hoped to marry, visits his estate once or twice a year, leaving the manager in virtual isolation. Eve has a bastard daughter, Liza, whom she protects by cutting her off from the world completely: the child is educated by her mother, is not allowed to read mail catalogs, watch television, or spend time in the local village. But things go wrong, and Eve is forced to resort to murder to protect her isolation. Her daughter, however (16 years old when the story begins), is lucky: forced to flee before the police arrive, she runs straight into the arms of a poor young man who loves her. It is her tale, as told to gentle young Sean, that makes up the bulk of the story. But hold on (and now we come to the fascinating bit), isn't something wrong here? Isn't Rendell doing a sort of "emile"? Isn't this the story of a child brought up in an idyllic setting, a child given all the attention she needs, given an old-fashioned but thorough education, a smart child, strong and at peace with herself? Rendell alludes to Rousseau's "emile", for this is one of the books Liza reads. She also sees Liza as a sort of princess, a Scheherazade, in fact. Now, there "is" murder in this story, and Eve is by no means the perfect mother--but really, is there anyone who will dare to say she has not produced a quite wonderful (sensitive, adaptive, intelligent, resourceful) daughter? This is a cunning, subtle, extraordinary book. Rendell, already the best of the best, seems to get better and better.
Joyce Carol Oates
"On of the finest practioners of the craft in the English-speaking world." -- The New York Times Book Review
From the Publisher
"It's hard to imagine anyone who could do more justice to a psychopath than Ruth Rendell."
-The Globe and Mail

"One of the greatest novelists presently at work in our language."
-Scott Turow

"A diabolically subtle writer."
-The New York Times Book Review

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Product Details

Open Road Media Mystery & Thriller
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What People are saying about this

Scott Turow
"Billiant mystery...extraordinary depth and accurancy of (Ruth Rendell's) psychological portrait is matched only by the rare inventiveness of her storytelling."
Elmore Leonard
"I love the way she writes."

Meet the Author

Ruth Rendell was an exceptional crime writer, and will be remembered as a legend in her own lifetime. Her groundbreaking debut novel, From Doon With Death, was first published in 1964 and introduced the reader to her enduring and popular detective, Inspector Reginald Wexford, who went on to feature in twenty-four of her subsequent novels.

With worldwide sales of approximately 20 million copies, Rendell was a regular Sunday Times bestseller. Her sixty bestselling novels include police procedurals, some of which have been successfully adapted for TV, stand-alone psychological mysteries, and a third strand of crime novels under the pseudonym Barbara Vine. Very much abreast of her times, the Wexford books in particular often engaged with social or political issues close to her heart.

Rendell won numerous awards, including the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger for 1976’s best crime novel with A Demon in My View, a Gold Dagger award for Live Flesh in 1986, and the Sunday Times Literary Award in 1990. In 2013 she was awarded the Crime Writers’ Association Cartier Diamond Dagger for sustained excellence in crime writing. In 1996 she was awarded the CBE and in 1997 became a Life Peer.

Ruth Rendell died in May 2015. Her final novel, Dark Corners, is scheduled for publication in October 2015

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Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
February 17, 1930
Place of Birth:
London, England
Loughton County High School for Girls, Essex

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Crocodile Bird 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is Rendell¿s story of a mother (Eve) that has a strange obsession with a mansion called Shrove on the English countryside. At the gatehouse there, she raises her illegitimate child, Liza, and shuts out from the outside world completely. I love this story because of the way Rendell slowly unravels the mystery of all the murders connected with the mansion, and the ups and downs of Liza¿s life. The moment I read the first word, I couldn¿t put it down until I finished. The characters were developed beautifully, their emotions seen through the eyes of Liza as a child, an adolescent, and eventually a young women. And the simple style with which Rendell described every look, movement, and action is truly amazing. No detail went unnoticed; it all came together beautifully and left me wondering when I reached the end. I loved everything about it, and would recommend it to anyone who likes a good mystery, or even just a good read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very unusual premise especially in today's world. However I was totally fascinated with the plot and how it could be possible in modern day Britain--and I've lived there! I found I could not put this book down till finished!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another masterpiece by Ruth Rendell.