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Summary

Eve and Liza, Mother and Daughter, live a quiet life in their remote home; a rustic gatehouse of a country mansion. At first glance their lives appear quite ordinary, except that Liza has almost no knowledge of the outside world, has never played with a child her own age and has witnessed her mother commit murder, on multiple occasions.

Eve and Liza, Mother and Daughter, live a quiet life in their remote home; a rustic gatehouse of a country mansion. At first glance their lives appear quite ordinary, except that Liza has almost no knowledge of the outside world, has never played with a child her own age and has witnessed her mother commit murder, on multiple occasions. Now, as the police come searching for a missing man, they must vacate their secluded home, shattering Liza’s sheltered world. With 100 pounds and her secret lover, Liza gradually learns about the world, her mother’s tale of betrayal, desire and obsession and just how like mother, like daughter she really is.

©1993 Ruth Rendell (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about The Crocodile Bird

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    4 out of 5 stars

Unexpected

I suppose now in the days of CSI and crime dramas like it the crimes perpetrated in this book are relatively tame. But as a new reader to Rendell and the Whydunnits I'm really finding these stories addictive. They are well told and structured. This one particularly has a girl called Liza recounting her strange upbringing to her boyfriend, whom she has run to as her mother sends her away.

A thing to note is that when I say strange upbringing, I don't mean weird in the awful sense that she lives with a murderer and every weekend they go on butchering escapades of the local tourists. The book is many times more subtle than that and is brilliant for it. You can identify with the why - and that I am finding is what makes Ruth Rendell surpass being a crime writer. She tells stories so well. I am so excited that I now have her entire collection to read!

Set in the late 80s but not at all dated as classics never are. Juliet Stevenson is my favourite narrator, her characters subtle but her range is wide.

A really enjoyable book. Strove will stay with me the same way that Manderley does.

18 people found this helpful

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Flawless

Any additional comments?

An absolutely wonderful book, beautifully written, impeccably plotted, just fabulous. Ruth Rendell is such a brilliant writer, being a great storyteller as well as writing prose of exceptional beauty and clarity.The pleasure of the story is greatly enhanced by Juliet Stevenson's exquisite narration. She has such a lovely voice, never mispronounces anything or puts a stress on the wrong word, and makes the characters come fully alive with her range of voices and accents.

13 people found this helpful

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Brilliant

Wonderful atmospheric story, beautifully read. One of the best audiobooks I have listened to. Ruth Rendell at her best. The first class narration by Juliet Stevenson makes it a winner in my eyes.

12 people found this helpful

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Juliet Stevenson reigns supreme

I only bought this book because Juliet Stevenson was the reader, and what a wonderful listen it turned out to be. I am new to Ruth Rendell and thoroughly enjoyed how she revealed Eliza's story alternating between the narrator and Eliza's telling of it.
Stevenson excels in male as well as female voices and her rendering of the characters' voices and accents is impeccable.
More of both Rendell and Stevenson please!

8 people found this helpful

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The Crocodile Bird

I read this book years ago, but it was great to be able to rediscover it via an audiobook. The themes are murder, isolation and obsession, so it's more akin to a Barbara Vine novel than a non-Wexford Rendell. The characters were well-crafted and believable.

Juliet Stevenson's narration was clear and perfectly suited for the story. Her performance of the working class Sean was also commendable.

A great listen, recommended.

6 people found this helpful

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A great read

Wonderful story telling by narrator. The relationship between mother and daughter subtle and moving
The writer builds the suspense so you are hooked

5 people found this helpful

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Impeccable Storytelling.

Beautifully written, completely evocative I was lost in it, flowing and mellifluous, beautifully plotted it really is fantastic book and the writing is matched by the narration, Juliet Stevenson, never less than perfect.......

4 people found this helpful

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  • K
  • 18-08-21

Should be considered a modern classic.

I was not expecting the contents of this novel to be what they were. That it did not diminish my engagement with the text says much about the quality of the writing (either that or it says something about me I’d rather not dwell on). Ignorantly, I tend to put writers into pigeon holes based on what I have read previously. It’s definitely ignorant because I know enough about human nature and of myself that people change. Ergo, writers and their writing change. Ruth Rendell’s Crocodile Bird bares little resemblance to Inspector Wexford style tale I was anticipating. There are similarly dark themes and the protagonists and events are unpredictable so perhaps it would go too far to say the difference is very marked but this novel was delightfully unexpected.

I really did like this novel and was very surprised that I had come across no previous recommendations for it. One reason may be the perfunctory way the rape of the protagonist at the end of the novel was dealt with. And, if Rendell meant this novel as a treatise on how one might deal healthily with rape it failed. The final rape narrative is rightly unpalatable to the contemporary reader. This, however, does not mean that my sense of an apologist handling of this act is not instructive. I’d go so far to say it is highly indicative of the cultural and sexual climate of the late 1980s and 90s that a young woman, academic, intelligent, might be programmed into accepting a sincere apology as an acquittal for sexual assault. Especially as that character has been steeped in a lifetime’s worth of the classics of literature, Greek myth in particular. A brief and late brush with Wollstonecraft would not undo sixteen years of accepting the unanswered subjugation of Leda and Demeter et al as the apex of literature. I might posit that my reading of the ending of this novel may not be the one Rendell intended. Not that this matters. For me the actual ending was more tragic than the one the protagonist Liza had been planning for her boyfriend/rapist Sean. To be completely frank, I much preferred her mother Eve’s way of dealing with sexual aggression.

There’s is so much to talk about in this novel, though: one’s sense of place, personal safety, mental health, trauma, gender, heteronormativity, maturity, death, legacy, the home, land ownership, murder, justice (its legal and natural forms), class, childhood…honestly, the list goes on and on. It is this point, the fact, that it’s crammed with topics open to so much debate that I’m surprised it’s not read or referred to more widely. Could this be the result of a general distaste for slower paced writing? Could it be that people are not longer comfortable with moral ambivalence? If that is the case, I am not one of those people. For me this was great writing because it made me think deeply. I didn’t feel the need to agree with the characters or relate to them to be moved by the plot and themes. I didn’t need to be pleased by the moral outcome. I was simply impressed that my mind was working throughout the book and way beyond its completion. If people have not given Rendell, in this novel at least, the credit she deserves it may be that, like me, they don’t like a writer who strays too much from their own paddock and the shadow of Wexford has fallen too deeply over her name for her other works to be considered ‘literature’, which I really think this novel is. I certainly have read modern classics far less provoking.

This is not a murder mystery, like the books Rendell is famous for; this is a novel with murder in it. And, for me, the act of murder is secondary to the concept of it. What is murder? Can it be taken metaphorically to include murder of the mind or of someone’s sense of self? Can it only be me who is more fond of the Crocodile than its bird? The main protagonist maybe Liza, and it may be that this is a sort of bildungsroman of her life, but it is Eve who is the heroine of this novel. She may have an obsessive attachment to her home - it is her pace of safety, her sanctuary, her castle-keep and she defends it to the death just as so many men and women have done throughout history. Her attachment is not unhealthy in any other respect than that Shrove House is a proxy for the very place one should always feel safe and that has been from her untimely ripped- one’s own body.

Juliet Stevenson reads this melodically, perfectly.

3 people found this helpful

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Excellent, brilliant storytelling

Great book. Beautifully narrated by Juliet Stevenson. A compelling story that kept me interested from the start.

2 people found this helpful

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  • H
  • 12-01-21

Fabulous

Wonderful narration as usual from Juliet Stevenson and an interesting story I shall definitely read more Ruth Rendell now

2 people found this helpful

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  • Ilana
  • 16-03-12

Gripping

Liza, a young girl of sixteen must flee from her secluded home, the gatehouse of a great mansion, to avoid being questioned by the police about a crime that her mother Eve has just committed. She makes her way to her lover and proceeds to tell him, in the style of The Arabian Nights, the story of how she came to be in this situation, in the process revealing a life story full of intrigue and horror. Until then, Eve had tried her best to shield Liza from the world and all it's modern amenities, and most of what Liza knows about life is gleaned from the 19th century books available in the mansion. Liza looks just like Eve, and must find out whether she is a an exact copy of her mother in deed as well as in looks, or whether she can exercise her own free will. I found this tale quite gripping, enough so to include it among my favourite reads of the year, and the narration by Juliet Stephenson was of course excellent.

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  • Abby Mamacos
  • 17-01-22

Long lost favourite .

Ruth Rendell was one of my favourite authors some 40 years ago. I’m so happy to have come across her again . I couldn’t put this book down and loved every word of it.