Friday, August 28, 2009
The Crocodile Bird
Ruth Rendell's novel The Crocodile Bird is the story of Liza, a young woman with a rather unusual upbringing. She has grown up sheltered from the outside world, brought up in the gatekeeper's house of an estate in the English countryside. Liza has only left the property a few times in her life, so has only come into contact with a few adults besides her mother Eve who has dictated her upbringing. Liza has never even known another child.
The Crocodile Bird opens with the knowledge that Eve is going to be prosecuted for a crime in the coming hours. In an attempt to protect Liza, Eva hatches a plan for Liza to get away, but Liza does not follow her instructions. What follows is the story of Liza's life after Eve's incarceration, as well as Liza telling the story of her past and why Eve kept her in seclusion. Liza's story is bone chilling; after all, Eve was arrested after the police came around looking for a missing man. For Liza, Eve's behavior didn't seem out of the ordinary - for her audience, well, it is shocking.
The Crocodile Bird is one of Ruth Rendell's stand-alone mysteries, and I felt it was very similar to her books under the name Barbara Vine - if you like her writing, I think you'd like this book. Rendell's books often seem so timeless. This one was written in 1993, if it hadn't been for descriptions of cars and televisions and other items, it could have taken place at anytime in the past 50 years or so.
Like the other Vine/Rendell books I have read, The Crocodile Bird is perfectly paced, and perfectly creepy. What made The Crocodile Bird stand out was its ending. Based on the blurb on the back of the book, it seemed clear what direction the story would take. And then - surprise. Well done Ruth Rendell.