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the third Policeman Unknown Binding – 1976

4.2 out of 5 stars 114 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Unknown Binding
  • ASIN: B001UZ110M
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (114 customer reviews)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
If you're coming to this book after the hype about it appearing on Lost, then the first thing you need to know is that it's one of the strangest books you're ever likely to read - and if it's not, I'll have some of what you're having. The Third Policeman is a remarkable book by any standards, even if (like me, hem hem) you fail to grasp the ending until you read the publisher's footnote afterwards. In fact the second half generally is not as hot as the first, and O'Brien seems to tread water most of the time after positively squirming with creative energy for the first hundred-odd pages. The book was written in 1940 but not published until 1967, after his death. It is narrated by a man who has literally no name, who has murdered someone for money and sets about recovering the stash. In doing so he encounters mad policemen obsessed with bicycles (including the eponymous third one), the atomic physics, and scale and size.
One of the finest long passages in the book, which had me drumming my heels in pure visceral pleasure, is when the policeman MacCruiskeen shows the narrator a little wooden chest he has made, "perfect in its proportions and without fault in its workmanship." It turns out that he has made thirty more, each smaller than the last and contained inside its predecessor, of which series even the thirteenth one was so small it "took me three years to make and it took me another year to believe that I had made it." What I particularly delighted in was the off-kilter and yet just-so dialogue between the policeman and our man:
"There now," said MacCruiskeen.
"It is nearly too nice," I said at last, "to talk about it.
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Format: Paperback
I've recently re-read this book after many years and on finishing it my thoughts now are exactly the same as they were the first time.

"Flann O'Brien is a twisted genius."

The language, the turn of phrase and the surreal aspects to the story (including the often hilarious footnotes) are unparalleled. This is a brilliant book and your life is much less complete without reading it.
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Format: Paperback
I recommend that anyone with a sense of humour reads this book. I first read this at school aged 15 and loved it. I have just re read it and realised that I hadn't even picked up the half of its brilliance.
Flann O'Brien (real name Brian O'Nolan, who also wrote under the pseudonym Myles na Gopaleen) is a genius. His imagination, his turn of phrase, his sense of humour, each of these would be the envy of many an acclaimed author. To have them all displayed so expertly in one novel... as you can tell I loved it. I have spent the past few days consistently hurting with laughter. Proper belly-laughter. After finishing the book I have gone back to re-read sections.
The story begins normally enough on an Irish farm. At the beginning the lyrical prose is entertaining enough, but following a rather dark crime by the narrator the book takes off, with the narrator trying to retain his sanity as event after surreal event unravels before him.
Anyone who can create the eminent philosopher De Selby, whose thoughts pepper the book deserves any praise that comes their way. De Selby's theories include, "A row of houses is a row of necessary evils" (houses have lead to the softening of the human race); "night is in fact accumulations of black air", a sort of volcanic dust which obscures day & consequently sleep is in fact a series of fits and heart attacks; "journeys are an hallucination"; and who, in my favourite moment, following up his theory that when you look at a reflection of yourself in the mirror you see a younger version of yourself, sets up two mirrors opposite each other, producing an infinite series of reflections. De Selby then looks through a telescope and claims to have seen himself as a young boy.
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Format: Paperback
If someone put a gun to my head and asked me to name my favourite book evereverever, I'd scream, "The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien", and then I'd disarm the cowardly weasel with some nifty kung-fu moves. This is a Great book. It is probably one of the most intelligent, warped and pant-wettingly hilarious novels ever written. I cannot describe the plot without giving away its sublime surprises ... but it does contain some odd notions about bicycles, the king of the one-legged-men, and some mind-imploding cod-science. Flann O'Brien ... Gord bliss him for sharing his genius and giving us this wonderful thing.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Reading this masterpiece it becomes immediately obvious where comedy writers such as Terry Pratchett and Robert Rankin, and all their lesser copycats, learnt their craft. It's all here - wild flights of fancy, bewildering and tangenital footnotes that quickly become longer than the chapters themselves, meandering conversations that leave everyone (including the reader) confused, some truly inspired pieces of barmy reverse-logic - and it's all great fun.

It begins with a murder by two desperate men somewhere in Ireland, but rapidly goes to all manner of strange places. The book is mainly a satire on the archetypal village police force taken to ludicrous extremes, and O' Brien uses his two monstrous policemen not only to great comic effect, but to expound all manner of strange theories. Some of the ideas are just plain barmy, yet all make an odd sort of sense within the book's own internal sense of logic. O' Brien also manages to shoot the book through with a creeping, brooding menace that you don't even realise is there until the nerve-biting climax begins, an impressive feat given the often outre subject matter.

And the bicycles. Was there ever a book or set of characters so obsessed with them? Bikes that are almost human, humans that are almost bike, and the main character's surprisingly touching and sweet love-affair with a female bicycle near the end was astonishingly well-written, considering the barmy subject. And what's weirdest is how it all makes so much sense. For instance - you know how you'll sometimes see a bike in a hallway or kitchen on a stormy, rainy evening? Person A will assume person B put it there, person B assumes person A put it there, and no-one thinks to comment.
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