The Crocodile Bird [NOOK Book]


In The Crocodile Bird, Ruth Rendell weaves a mesmerizing story of the obsessive love between a mother and a daughter and its connection to a series of deaths near a remote English manor, magnificent in its hilltop isolation. Liza lived in the gatekeeper's cottage at Shrove House until the day the police took her mother away forever. Liza, who has grown up completely sheltered from the outside world, finds refuge with a young drifter. Each night she tells him a little more about her life: her mother's obsession ...
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The Crocodile Bird

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In The Crocodile Bird, Ruth Rendell weaves a mesmerizing story of the obsessive love between a mother and a daughter and its connection to a series of deaths near a remote English manor, magnificent in its hilltop isolation. Liza lived in the gatekeeper's cottage at Shrove House until the day the police took her mother away forever. Liza, who has grown up completely sheltered from the outside world, finds refuge with a young drifter. Each night she tells him a little more about her life: her mother's obsession with Shrove House and her mysterious claim to it, her mother's aversion to the modern world and her fierce desire to shelter Liza from its depredations. And, finally, Liza tells him of the men who came to Shrove House and never left alive. In England and increasingly in America, Ruth Rendell's devoted fans eagerly anticipate her every excursion into the shadow of the human psyche. The Crocodile Bird is the most chilling and powerful novel of her career and will establish her everywhere as today's unrivaled master of psychological suspense.

Sheltered with her mother in the rustic beauty of an English country estate, Liza has been kept isolated from the outside world for all her 16 years. But when her mother is taken away on suspicion of murder, Liza's fragile life and innocence is invaded by the outside world. Piece by piece she reveals her mother's tale of deadly obsession.

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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

  • ISBN-13: 9781453211038
  • Publisher: Open Road Media
  • Publication date: 12/28/2010
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 34,268
  • File size: 391 KB

Meet the Author

Ruth Rendell

Ruth Rendell is the Queen of British crime writing. The author of over 50 novels, she has won many significant crime fiction awards. Her first novel, From Doon With Death, appeared in 1964, and since then her reputation and readership have grown steadily with each new book.

She has received major awards for her work; three Edgars from the Mystery Writers of America; the Crime Writers' Gold Dagger Award for 1976's best crime novel, A Demon in My View; the Arts Council National Book Award for Genre Fiction in 1981 for The Lake of Darkness; the Crime Writer's Gold Dagger Award for 1986's best crime book for Live Flesh; in 1987 the Crime Writer's Gold Dagger Award for A Fatal Inversion and in 1991 the same award for King Solomon's Carpet, both written under the pseudonym Barbara Vine; the Sunday Times Literary Award in 1990; and in 1991 the Crime Writer's Cartier Diamond Award for outstanding contribution to the crime fiction genre.

Her books are translated into 21 languages. In 1996 she was awarded the CBE and in 1997 became a Life Peer.


From the start of her illustrious career, Ruth Rendell's novels have blurred the distinction between literature and commercial fiction. Although Rendell is classified as a writer of mysteries and crime thrillers, her elegant prose and superb literary skills elevate her far above the conventions of those genres.

Born Ruth Barbara Grasemann in London in 1930, she attended the Loughton County High School for Girls in Essex, then went to work as a features writer for the Essex newspapers. In 1950, she married her boss at the newspaper, journalist Donald Rendell. (They divorced in 1975, remarried two years later, and remained together until his death in 1999.) For the next decade, she juggled marriage, motherhood, and part-time writing. She produced at least two unpublished novels before hitting pay dirt in 1964 with From Doon with Death, the first mystery to feature Chief Inspector Reginald 'Reg' Wexford of the Kingsmarkham Police Force. An immediate bestseller, the book launched Rendell's career and marked the beginning of one of the most successful and enduring series in detective fiction.

In 1965, Rendell published her second novel, a deft crime thriller (with no police presence) entitled To Fear a Painted Devil. For 20 years, she was content to alternate installments in the Wexford series with a steady stream of bestselling standalones that explored darker themes like envy, sexual obsession, and the tragic repercussions of miscommunication. Then, in 1986, she began a third strand of fiction under the name Barbara Vine. The very first of these books, A Dark-Adapted Eye, earned a prestigious Edgar Award.

From the get-go, the pseudonymous Vine novels had a separate DNA, although Rendell has always had difficulty pinpointing the distinction. In an interview with NPR, she tried to explain: "I don't think the Barbara Vines are mysteries in any sense. I must say that. They are different, and that is partly how I decide. The idea would come to me and I would know at once whether it was to be a Barbara Vine or a Ruth Rendell ... The Barbara Vine is much more slowly paced. It is a much more in-depth, searching sort of book; it doesn't necessarily have a murder in it. It's almost always set partly in the past, sometimes quite a long way in the past. And I think all these things come together and make them very different from the Ruth Rendells."

Under both names, Rendell has garnered numerous awards, including three American Edgars and multiple Gold and Silver Daggers from England's distinguished Crime Writers' Association. In 1996, she was made a Commander of the British Empire; and in 1997, a Life Peerage was conferred on her as Baroness Rendell of Babergh. Although, in her own words, she was "slightly stunned" by the peerage, she takes her responsibilities quite seriously, writing in the mornings and attending the House of Lords several afternoons a week.

Praise for Rendell is lavish and seemingly unqualified. John Mortimer once proclaimed that she would surely have won the Booker if she had not been pigeonholed as a "crime writer." Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison has identified Rendell as one of her favorite authors. And Joyce Carol Oates has called her "one of the finest practitioners of the craft in the English-speaking world."

Good To Know

While working as a journalist, Rendell once reported on a local club's annual dinner without actually attending. Her story omitted the crucial fact that the after-dinner speaker had dropped dead at the podium in the middle of his speech! She resigned before being fired.

The pseudonym Barbara Vine derives from the combination of Rendell's middle name and her great-grandmother's maiden name.

"I wouldn't keep my age a secret even if I had the chance," Rendell has said. "But I don't have the chance. Regularly, on February 17, the newspapers tell their readers my age."

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    1. Also Known As:
      Barbara Vine
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 17, 1930
    2. Place of Birth:
      London, England
    1. Education:
      Loughton County High School for Girls, Essex

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2001

    Great Book!!

    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!

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2015

    Quirky storyline but fascinating

    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

    Posted December 8, 2012



    0 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2012

    Another masterpiece by Ruth Rendell.

    Another masterpiece by Ruth Rendell.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted April 10, 2015

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    Posted December 30, 2010

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    Posted January 11, 2011

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    Posted December 20, 2011

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    Posted July 12, 2013

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