The Third Policeman

By Flann O'Brien

Rating: 4 stars

This is a story of life, death, bicycles and policemen. And policemen obsessed with bicycles. Our narrator takes us on a surreal, fantastic journey as he murders a man and then tries to find his victim’s black cash box that his accomplice has hidden. On his journey he finds the three policemen of the title, has long and meaningful conversations with his soul and a brief but oddly poignant love affair with a bicycle.

I loved the surrealist, fantastical bent to this novel and found the protagonist sympathetic, despite his murderous tendencies. The way he blunders from encounter to encounter made him endearing in my eyes, and I was willing him to succeed all the way through.

The footnotes are voluminous (the longest covers about four pages) and almost all reference the ‘savant’ de Selby, who the (never named) protagonist is obsessed with and who he aims to write a definitive commentary on. The footnotes refer to some of the eccentric de Selby’s work, and refer to other commentators, such as Hackjaw, Kraus and the villainous du Garbandier and are often hilarious.

The conclusion of the book is poignant and oddly satisfying. Certainly recommended.

Book details

ISBN: 9780007247172
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Year of publication: 1967

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