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The Third Policeman Paperback – March 1, 2002

148 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A comic trip through hell in Ireland, as told by a murderer, The Third Policeman is another inspired bit of confusing and comic lunacy from the warped imagination and lovably demented pen of Flann O'Brien, author of At Swim-Two-Birds. There's even a small chance you'll figure out what's going on if you read the publisher's note that appears on the last page. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. If ever a book was brought to life by a reading, it is this presentation of O'Brien's posthumously published classic. Norton individually crafts voices and personalities for each character in such a way that a listener might imagine an entire cast of voice talent working overtime. This is a comic/surreal tale of a one-legged gentleman farmer who participates in a poorly planned botched robbery-turned-murder, only to find himself having a long conversation with the dead man shortly after the deed. In addition he hears from his own soul, who he names Joe. Joe's voice is that of a wry observer with a voice of calm, removed authority, whereas dead man Mathers' voice is completely nasal, at once sickly and droll. Mathers sends the farmer to a two-dimensional barracks of three metaphysical policemen. Here he finds himself in a world where people can become bicycles and eternity is within walking distance. Norton's rendition of the main policeman, Sergeant Pluck, tips the reading into a full-out performance. The enormous blustery fellow with red cheeks and brushy mustache and eyebrows is portrayed like a jolly yet dangerous Disney walrus. Norton's Irish brogue, accentuated to different degrees with the various characters, ties the ribbon on a perfect presentation of this absurd and chilling masterpiece. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press; Later printing edition (March 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156478214X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1564782144
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (148 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #36,014 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Flann O'Brien, whose real name was Brian O'Nolan, also wrote under the pen name of Myles na Gopaleen. He was born in 1911 in County Tyrone. A resident of Dublin, he graduated from University College after a brilliant career as a student (editing a magazine called Blather) and joined the Civil Service, in which he eventually attained a senior position.

He wrote throughout his life, which ended in Dublin on April 1, 1966. His other novels include The Dalkey Archive, The Third Policeman, The Hard Life, and The Poor Mouth, all available from Dalkey Archive Press. Also available are three volumes of his newspaper columns: The Best of Myles, Further Cuttings from Cruiskeen Lawn, and At War.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

78 of 79 people found the following review helpful By cathalkelly@hotmail.com on April 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
There can be few more chilling discoveries in life than to be rambling around Amazon.com and find that there are 311 reviews of The Celestine Prophecy and only one, ONE!, of Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman.
This book, along with Gravity's Rainbow, The Recognitions, Auto da Fe, The Burn, and a small handful of others, is a masterpiece of the 20th century - a book people will be reading while they pilot their spaceships toward a hard day's work on Venus or some such thing a kajillion years into the future. It is also one of the few satire's that doesn't succeed by denigrating us and one of the few post-modern works that does succeed by making us howl with laughter.
I dare anyone to read the first line and then put this book down. Undoubtedly the best first line in English literature (though Garcia Marquez's first line in 100 Years of Solitude is probably the best first line in all of literature).
I won't go on about plot twists - only urge fans of literature that expands understanding while entertaining to pick up this book by the greatest of Irish writers (you read right, THE greatest).
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80 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
Let me just say this... don't read the Forward before you read the book. The entire story will be quickly and without warning ruined for you.

Now let me also say this is an interesting if unconventional story, a quick read but also lots to chew on.

I recommend
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57 of 67 people found the following review helpful By S. A. Keister on March 29, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
No point in going to great lengths to describe the plot of this most brilliant and hysterical novel, "The Third Policeman," as that ground has been thoroughly tramped over by others on this page. Leave me just confess that this book will alternately have you laughing so hard you will be forced to put it down or risk suffocation, and will then propel your innocent little mind through the roof of your house. Reading this book is like taking acid, then watching Mony Python perform the works of Albert Einstein wearing English police uniforms. And speaking of Monty Python, after a few passages of this book you will realize where all the English satirical groups of the 20th century got their material. And when you're done laundering the pants you have soiled through uncontrolled laughing, you will gasp in intellectual astonishment at the enormity and profundity of O'Brien's logic.

Flann O'Brien is a flat-out genius of language and satire. You should really do yourself a favor and read his other books as well: "At Swim-Two-Birds," "The Hard Life," "The Poor Mouth," and "The Dalkey Archive." Say no more. A pint of plain is your only man.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Olaf Johnson on April 16, 2006
Format: Paperback
I picked this book up because people on a few of the ABC's LOST forums were raving about it. As you probably all know by now, the Desmond character on LOST Season 2 Episode 1 (or 2) was seen reading this book, so naturally all the die hard LOST fans went out and bought this book the next day. I waited around until I found time to read it, which is now.

I must say that the book exceeded my expectations. I expected the normal genre western european comedy filled with stock characters and quirky pre-industrial social satirical situations, but "The Third Policeman(TTP)" was much more than that, I was amazed to find myself drenched in philosphies, physics (there is an entire part where the narrator whiles walking along his 19th century Irish countryside crosses into a one dimensional plane where the people are also one dimensional and he describes it in such detail and humor that it rivals, if not outshines, the historically famous "Flatland" book), other parts and characters (especially de Selby's theories) discuss love, psychology, houses, fashion, violence, environmentalism, roads&cities planning, bicycles...I can go on and on. Everything is written really clear, funny and the dialogues are so timeless and quick to relate to, yet you are in the middle of another place (Ireland) at another time (pre-1900).

I'm surprised that this book wasn't a requirement for High School or College reading materials since it is filled to the brim with great SAT & GRE words and consistent withj well written sentences, dialogues and synthesizes great plot formation.

I'm also surprised that this book has not yet been adapted into a screenplay of movie as yet.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Richard R. Horton on July 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is one of the strangest novels I have ever read. It was written in about 1940, but not published until 1967, a year or two after the author`s death. O`Brien is a pseudonym for the Irish writer Brian O`Nolan, who was also a celebrated newspaper columnist using the name Myles na gCopaleen, the latter name apparently Gaelic. O`Brien`s other masterpiece is At Swim-Two-Birds, which was published in 1939. His "Myles" columns is also well-regarded, and such novels as The Poor Mouth and The Hard Life are well worth reading.
The Third Policeman is quite funny, quite absurd, and, at bottom, very disturbing. The narrator is a very unpleasant man, who announces in the first sentence "Not everybody knows how I killed old Phillip Mathers, smashing his jaw in with my spade;" not only is he a murderer, but a very lazy man who ruins his family farm, and spends his life researching the works of a madman named De Selby, who believes that, among other things, darkness is an hallucination, the result of accretions of black air. The narrator relates his early life briefly, leading up to his association with another unsavory character, John Divney, who parasitically moves in with the narrator and helps squander his inheritance. Divney and the narrator plot to kill their neighbor, Phillip Mathers, to steal his money. After the murder they decide to leave the money for a while until the coast clears: however they distrust each other so much that they never leave each others company. Finally they go to Mathers`s house to fetch the strongbox with his money: then Divney sends the narrator ahead to the house alone, while he stands lookout, and things get very strange!
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