The Third Policeman

The Third Policeman

A Novel

Paperback - 1999
Average Rating:
Rate this:

The Third Policeman is Flann O'Brien's brilliantly dark comic novel about the nature of time, death, and existence. Told by a narrator who has committed a botched robbery and brutal murder, the novel follows him and his adventures in a two-dimensional police station where, through the theories of the scientist/philosopher de Selby, he is introduced to "Atomic Theory" and its relation to bicycles, the existence of eternity (which turns out to be just down the road), and de Selby's view that the earth is not round but "sausage-shaped." With the help of his newly found soul named "Joe, " he grapples with the riddles and contradictions that three eccentric policeman present to him.

The last of O'Brien's novels to be published, The Third Policeman joins O'Brien's other fiction ( At Swim-Two-Birds , The Poor Mouth , The Hard Life , The Best of Myles , and The Dalkey Archive ) to ensure his place, along with James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, as one of Ireland's great comic geniuses.

Publisher: Normal, IL : Dalkey Archive Press, 1999.
Edition: 1st Dalkey Archive ed.
ISBN: 9781564782144
Characteristics: xiii, 200 p. ; 22 cm.
Alternative Title: 3rd policeman


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
bibliotom Feb 27, 2018

An unconventional comic masterpiece. Bicycles figure highly in the book, as do bicycle lamps, and saddles, and pumps. There are boxes within boxes of infinitesimal dimensions, needles of preternatural sharpness, and a curious elevator to eternity. The protagonist has no name, which poses certain legal quandaries, but his soul does. It is Joe, and at various points Joe unsuccessfully endeavors to divorce himself from the body he accompanies. The reader may empathize with Joe, since the body to which he is paired is guilty of a rather stupid and venal instance of murder. Hence the policemen. Though it must be said that this is not a conventional murder mystery inasmuch as the mystery orbits the spheres of theology, eschatology, and particle physics rather than murder. And bicycles. Lots and lots of bicycles.

VaughanPLAbby Jan 16, 2017

I read this novel for the first time during my undergraduate degree and it was a revelation. Every event depicted, from beginning to end, was thrilling and riveting. I felt a similar thrill reading it for the second time, even though I knew what was going to happen. I cannot wait to read it again!


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number

Subject Headings


Find it at CPL

To Top