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The Crocodile Bird

3.80  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,067 Ratings  ·  153 Reviews
Few people under the age of seventeen have read the whole of Virgil in Latin and witnessed two murders. But Liza Beck is no ordinary teenager. She has grown up alone with her mother, Eve, in the remote gatekeeper's cottage of magnificent Shrove House. Here Liza has been nourished by books and her mother's obsessive love, carefully shielded from the "contamination" of the o ...more
Hardcover, 361 pages
Published September 21st 1993 by Crown (first published 1993)
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Cristina This is one of those subtle books that tells a story through mundanities. It's really not for everyone (and clearly isn't for you). I'd only recommend…moreThis is one of those subtle books that tells a story through mundanities. It's really not for everyone (and clearly isn't for you). I'd only recommend this to people who care more than character than plot. This book is about unfolding the layers of Eve--and Liza--and that takes time and effort.

I absolutely love this book, but ... definitely not everyone's cup of Earl Grey. (less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Cecilia
Oct 11, 2007 Cecilia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mystery fans
Shelves: favorites
One of Rendell’s finest works, combining the right mix of thrills with atmosphere. The story, set in rural England, tells the tale of a young girl whose mother has severely sheltered her from all aspects of the world. She does not associate with young people her age, she does not go to school, she rarely accompanies her mother into town for shopping, etc. When her mother gets arrested, she is forced to flee the only home and solace she has ever known. She begins to slowly share her dark, mysteri ...more
Stephanie
Sep 04, 2007 Stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anybody with mother issues
If you've got mother issues -- and, oh boy, have I got them in spades, read this book. It's about a young girl who has been hidden away by the world by her crazy mum. Whenever I get one of my famous Mother's Day migraines, I pick up this book and console myself that things could be worse.

Gloriously written, Rendell is the finest novelist of our time. Period.
Cheryl
Jul 28, 2015 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A psychological study of a girl (Lizzy) growing up in a reclusive situation with her mother (Eve). The story opens with Lizzy being sent away from home for the first time, because police are coming to arrest her mother for murder. Running to her secret boyfriend's trailer for safety, she then tells him of her secluded life and what led up to the arrest.

Although the novel is not a "thriller", it did keep me turning pages to read about Lizzy's life with her strange mother. The writing is very good
...more
Maria João Fernandes
"Shrove House: the palace, the house of pictures and secrets, dolls and keys, books and shadows."

"The Crocodile Bird" tem uma introdução bastante misteriosa. Eve e Liza são, respectivamente, mãe e filha. Longe da sociedade, vivem isoladas por opção própria, como residentes da Casa de Shrove, uma mansão na qual Eve é governanta, sucessora da sua mãe. Atormentada por um passado distante mas doloroso, Eve está determinada a criar a sua filha longe de qualquer contacto com o mundo real.

Ruth Rendell
...more
Francis
Jan 25, 2012 Francis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ruth Rendell is not your typical formula crime/mystery writer.

i.e. Create a flawed detective, male or female, doesn't matter, give him or her a side kick or a love interest or both. Create an interesting backdrop. Now, create a ruthless, sadistic killer, serial killers and pedophiles being in particular in high demand. Now, as the bodies pile up, have your detective get beat up time or two, then kill the bad guy in a crowning scene of excessive violence and mayhem.

Repeat as needed, to keep your
...more
Anna
Jan 03, 2013 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Once again I have been overwhelmed by Ruth Rendell's writing skill. A master storyteller, Rendell is capable of creating the most intriguing plots filled with ordinary characters with propensities to commit murder. In this instance, the story is set in a remote countryside, not far from a small village. Living in the gatehouse with her mother Eve, Liza grows up isolated from everyone other than Jonathan, owner of Shrove House, and the two men who take care of the grounds. Never imagining living ...more
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
A fascinating taunt tale about a girl who lives as a recluse with her mother. She struggles to come to terms with the horrifying probability that she’s inherited her mother’s murderous instincts.
Andrew
May 13, 2012 Andrew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't consider myself a huge Rendell fan on the whole, largely because I find her to be inconsistent. Maybe it's due to her being overly prolific - with such a large and frequent output, she seems to have a lot of hits and misses. However, when Rendell is at her best, she is an exceptional writer, as The Crocodile Bird ably demonstrates. An incredibly compelling mother-daughter relationship forms the heart of a novel that explores the politics and psychology of possession by traveling through ...more
Norma
Jul 26, 2016 Norma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Crocodile Bird is hard to put down. Eve is a protective, sheltering mother. She is determined to shield Liza from the disappointments and cruelties of life. Liza is a happy, carefree child engaged in learning about nature, books, history, and languages. Liza is smart, intuitive, and curious. At the age of sixteen she must leave home. The circumstance of her leaving is where the novel begins. The story is told reflectively as Liza comes to terms with freedom by understanding her past. The jou ...more
Elizabeth
Sep 19, 2012 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-thriller
"....for its other name was the crocodile bird, so called because it is the only creature that can enter with impunity the mouth of a crocodile and pick its teeth." -- The Crocodile Bird, page 160

I can see why Ruth Rendell has won so many awards for her books. This is the first book of hers that I have read and it was recommended to me by my friend, Linda.

I have seen all of the Ruth Rendell mysteries on Netflix so I was familiar with her style before I read this book.

Rendell is an amazing story
...more
Diane Fanning
Jan 09, 2016 Diane Fanning rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
AN odd but brilliant psychological study of a teenager raised in bizarre circumstances that guide her life in a collision course with homicide. And of course, Rendall's writing and storytelling is, as always, exquisitely executed.
Margaret
Aug 26, 2010 Margaret rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, authors-qrs
This starts with a bang, as 17-year-old Liza is told by her mother Eve that she must immediately leave the small gatehouse where she and Eve have always lived in isolation. Liza must leave because Eve has killed a man and knows that the police will soon be coming for her. Liza runs away to her secret lover, and dual narratives unfold, as Liza tells her lover the story of her upbringing with Eve and learns to live in the real world.

The suspense grows as Liza reveals more and more of her past, an
...more
Juanita
Jan 31, 2016 Juanita rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british-mystery
Review: The Crocodile Bird by Ruth Rendell.

Ruth Rendell is an English writer with a story that anticipates every excursion into the shadows of psychological human suspense. The novel relates a chilling and powerful consequence of human behavior. Also, how possessiveness takes over and can destroy the bonds of self-worth.

The story weaves a captivating series of events of a mother 19s love for her daughter. Eve 19s unfortunate past collision with an evil undertaking made her over-protect her daug
...more
Myriam Schärz
Ok, I do not like this cover. Might not have read it even if it had that cover when I did... Oh yes, I do know one should not judge a book by its cover but I can't help it, I do.

And I would have been wrong to not read it since it is a really good book. Girl named Liza who grows up knowing basically nobody but her mother, being isolated somewhere in remote England in todays time. The book is about her not questioning her situation, loving her mother and the life they are leading, mother being a m
...more
Nolan
May 25, 2014 Nolan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've often wondered what it would be like to be so talented that you can't craft a bad book unless you deliberately force yourself to do it. So it must be with Ruth Rendell. I haven't read anything from her that didn't fascinate me, horrify me just a little now and then, give me the creeps or whatever impact she intended to have on me. So it is with this book.

Liza is not yet 17 when you encounter her. She lives in a place Hitchcock would have loved to film. It's an isolated estate house in rural
...more
Martine Bailey
May 13, 2014 Martine Bailey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic-crime
I have to say that Ruth Rendell is one of my favourite writers and this classic is certainly close to her best. Juliet Stevenson reads superbly, in a clear and intimate style which well suits the confessional, Scheherazade style of the book’s structure. Rendell is at her best in tales that touch on outsiders, in this case Eve, a beautiful hippy chick recluse rearing her only daughter in the type of isolation usually associated with long lost children reared by wolves (or maybe this is no coincid ...more
M. Newman
Jun 30, 2014 M. Newman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
Liza is a pretty sixteen-year-old girl whose mother, Eve, the caretaker of a rural British estate that she loves as her own, has sheltered her for entire life. Liza was home-schooled by her mother, never exposed to newspaper or television and never went to the nearby village.The actual at-home education was far superior to anything Liza could have gotten in school. Of course, Liza was socially inept.

During Liza's sixteen years, Eve committed three murders. After the last one, which Eve knows wi
...more
Lisa
Jul 09, 2011 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, mystery
I've been glued to this book for the past two days. Rendell combines intense characters and plot at a steady pace. There's no good place to take a breather, I had to force myself to put it down. And I woke up grabbing for it again. Rendell has a new fan in me.
Ali Mandala
Jul 16, 2014 Ali Mandala rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed reading this book. It was suspenseful and kept me on edge, even though it was a recounting of the past, in which we already know some of what's happened.
The narrator was really wonderful, young and naive but so intelligent. I loved all of the references to other literature. The narrator was quite special because of her upbringing, closed off from the world. For a while, I even had a hard time placing the year and time period. Little details kept coming out to tell me that they
...more
Moonlight Reader
Available through kindle unlimited.

My second Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine through KU.

A modern take on 1001 nights - with an engaging narrator. Repressed mother, fucked up family. Well done.
Amanda
Mar 13, 2016 Amanda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Could be darker...

This book has a lot of potential. It is the story of Liza, and her unusual upbringing by her mother in the remote English countryside. Oh, and her mother is a murderess. Much like many of Ruth Rendell's (or Barbara Vine's) works, The Crocodile Bird has a very quiet and serene tone.

Liza's unique perspective reminded me very much of Emma Donahue's Room, though The Crocodile Bird was published many years before Room.

If anything, I am disappointed in the conclusion of the novel.
...more
Alex
Jun 02, 2010 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Skillful portrait of heartbreaking symbiotic relationships which end in tragedy. One of my favorite Rendells.
Diane Walters
Oct 06, 2015 Diane Walters rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very interesting book. Sort of a cross between a mystery and a love story and a coming of age book. In a way it reminded me of V.C. Andrews writing a pleasant story, if anyone could picture that, and then have all the weirdness towards the last half of the book. I can't say why I thought of that, though. Maybe because she grew up in isolation, away from the world. Instead of the family hiding the child away so no one would know there were children, this was, instead, a girl hidden awa ...more
Vin DeLoach
Nov 18, 2015 Vin DeLoach rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I definitely enjoyed this book, especially the ending which took me by surprise (but wasn't implausible in hindsight). I'm not generally a fan of cutting back and forth between the present and the past, but the main character's retelling of her life's story to date works here and is integral to the plot set in the present.

I give it four stars rather than five only because it strikes me as a bit slow-paced at times and is perhaps slightly longer than necessary to tell the story. Others might enjo
...more
Trish
Nov 04, 2008 Trish rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite books.
Caro
Like Scheherezade, Liza tells the bizarre story of her life night after night to her appalled boyfriend, whom she has known for just a few weeks. Liza's mother Eve is a great Rendell character - obsessed, unafraid, and willing to commit murder to get what she can't live without. It's a pageturner, but I wish Eve's story made more sense, especially her reasons for sheltering Liza from the outside world. The story concludes with a twist that I'll give her even though it's not entirely believable.
Cristina
Wow, what a great book. I'll admit to being a bit leery at first because of the descriptive gothic style which isn't usually my cup of tea, but this is one of those cases where firs impressions are misleading. What a book! This just might make it into my favorites.

Ruth Rendell has one of the most unique approaches to mystery that I've ever seen. In this book, the mystery is no whodunit; it's why.

By page 10, you know that Liza's mother, Eve, has killed a man and he's not her first. Over the next
...more
Hannah Fullmer
The Crocodile Bird is the third novel I have read by Ruth Rendell, and I chose it in part because of seeing it recommended as one of her best.
Having read The Rottweiler, and The Minotaur (written under her pseudonym, Barbara Vine), and felt ambivalent and perplexed by them, I hoped that in The Crocodile Bird I would understand Rendell's brilliance and popularity.
Unfortunately, after reading The Crocodile Bird, I still just don't get it.
I've heard Rendell described a the master of suspense, and
...more
John
Mar 23, 2013 John rated it really liked it
No time for more than a brief note, alas.

Liza Beck was raised by her mother Eve in isolation from the world, living in the gatehouse to a stately home, Shrove, tucked away miles from anywhere in the English countryside. The day the cops arrive to take Eve away is the day Liza, by now 16, flees to the arms of her itinerant-gardener lover Sean, in whose arms and in whose caravan she tells her story, Scheherazade-like -- her story of the obsession Eve bore for Shrove, and the men she murdered in or
...more
Theresa Leone Davidson
Ruth Rendell writes these quiet little mysteries, quiet in terms of suspense, with little gore but always with some neat twists. I must say, though, that The Crocodile Bird starts out almost a bit too quietly. The first 60 pages kept putting me to sleep but after that the story improved immensely. It's about a girl named Eliza, 16 years old, who has always lived with her mother in the English countryside, and has been sheltered to the point that she has no friends, has never attended school, nor ...more
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A.K.A. Barbara Vine

Ruth Barbara Rendell, Baroness Rendell of Babergh, CBE, who also wrote under the pseudonym Barbara Vine, was an acclaimed English crime writer, known for her many psychological thrillers and murder mysteries and above all for Inspector Wexford.
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“He would have to get used to it, she thought. He would have to get used to her being more and more preoccupied with books.” 1 likes
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