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The Third Policeman | [Flann O'Brien]

The Third Policeman

Flann O'Brien's most popular and surrealistic novel concerns an imaginary, hellish village police force and a local murder.

Weird, satirical, and very funny, its popularity has suddenly increased with the mention of the novel in the TV series Lost.

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Audible Editor Reviews

Why we think it's Essential: Jim Norton turns this wild post-modern romp into an accessible absurdist story that sounds as though it has been narrated by a studio full of talent. This modern classic can often make little sense when read, but Norton never misses a beat. While the story ranges from life to afterlife and everywhere in between, Norton keeps us grounded, entertained, and totally engrossed. You might've missed it in lit class, but don't let it roll by now. —Chris Doheny

Publisher's Summary

Flann O'Brien's most popular and surrealistic novel concerns an imaginary, hellish village police force and a local murder.

Weird, satirical, and very funny, its popularity has suddenly increased with the mention of the novel in the TV series Lost.

Download the accompanying reference guide.

© and (P)2007 Naxos Rights International

What the Critics Say

"His writing is invariably compared to those other Irish greats, Joyce and Beckett, but for me he is infinitely more accessible and much funnier." (Sue Arnold, The Guardian, UK)
"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....[He] ties the ribbon on a perfect presentation of this absurd and chilling masterpiece." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.5 (240 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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Overall
3.9 (93 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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1 star
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Story
4.2 (94 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Robert JACKSONVILLE, FL, United States 02-18-09
    Robert JACKSONVILLE, FL, United States 02-18-09 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Worth the Effort"

    It is hard to figure out where this book is going at times, however it has many comical parts and the narrator does a great job. It is written in the same style as Joseph Heller's Catch 22 and I would think that if you liked that book you would also like this one. The book might not make total sense until you finish it though.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    gardensnail 12-30-09
    gardensnail 12-30-09 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
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    34
    2
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    "Narrator extradinaire"

    This is a very funny story but the narrator makes it great. It is surreal so one must suspend logic to enjoy it.
    The skill and talent of Jim Norton is unbelievable. I would like to know if he is Irish or not. He has the accent down pat. His ability to interpret the various characters, and there are many weird and wonderful, is fantastic.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dennis ST Louis, MO, USA 08-16-08
    Dennis ST Louis, MO, USA 08-16-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    34
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    10
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    "Patience"

    Stick with it; this book is surprisingly good,funny very Irish

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer LONDON, United Kingdom 05-18-10
    Amazon Customer LONDON, United Kingdom 05-18-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Rambling and funny"

    Flann O'Brien is an acquired taste but give him a chance - he's worth it.

    He has a free associative style of writing and sometimes you wonder where you're going and where you've been - but he's funny, very funny.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Vicki WEST JORDAN, UT, United States 08-14-13
    Vicki WEST JORDAN, UT, United States 08-14-13 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Brain Shrinking"
    What disappointed you about The Third Policeman?

    The mind numming nonsense. I kept listening to the end thinking it must get better. What a waste of listening time.


    What could Flann O'Brien have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    To have not spewed random nonsense on page after page.


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Jim Norton?

    The narrator was great. He was not the problem.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Third Policeman?

    Everything from his entering the house to get the black box to his going back to see his partner in crime.


    Any additional comments?

    As quoted from the book. "What I [heard] made my brain shrink painfully in my head".

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ian DES MOINES, WASHINGTON, United States 12-26-11
    Ian DES MOINES, WASHINGTON, United States 12-26-11

    gobstopper

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Magnificent. Norton brings the book alive"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Third Policeman to be better than the print version?

    Having read and enjoyed The Third Policeman several times, I realise as I listen to Jim Norton that I only scratched the surface. Thank you Bishop!


    What other book might you compare The Third Policeman to and why?

    The exuberant language, the vibrant characters, the crazy humour, the sinister core, make this book hard to categorise. Perhaps if you enjoyed Catch-22 you would enjoy this.


    What about Jim Norton’s performance did you like?

    Jim Norton's performance is exemplary: pitch-perfect, even, intelligent, committed, involved and involving, tireless, with a magisterial command of characterisation and voicing - an absolute joy.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    john in RI Providence, RI 02-14-14
    john in RI Providence, RI 02-14-14

    john in RI

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not a detective novel.....well sort of....."
    Where does The Third Policeman rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    I have only purchased one other audiobook-Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell. They are both excellent.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The narrator because it is his story, although he is telling it while dead.


    What about Jim Norton’s performance did you like?

    He was perfect.


    Who was the most memorable character of The Third Policeman and why?

    The narrator.


    Any additional comments?

    I have the feeling the people who hated this saw the word policeman in the title and expected one of those books located by the cash register in the supermarket. If you can't enjoy something because it doesn't "make sense" you won't like this. However if you like Samuel Becket or James Joyce you will find this very funny.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Deborah Baldwin New York, NY 10-02-12
    Deborah Baldwin New York, NY 10-02-12 Listener Since 2009

    cookbook collector

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    2
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    Performance
    Story
    "Surreal surprise"
    If you could sum up The Third Policeman in three words, what would they be?

    Droll and absurd.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The narrator. His plight was so poignant.


    What does Jim Norton bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    It's hard to imagine this zany mystery story without his voice. Or voices. He can play five parts at once in a funny, convincing way.


    If you could rename The Third Policeman, what would you call it?

    Crime and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance


    Any additional comments?

    Jim Norton's droll delivery is worthy of a prize. The writing is rich and witty. And the plot is ridiculous. Highly recommended.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tamara NORMANTON, QLD, Australia 01-18-10
    Tamara NORMANTON, QLD, Australia 01-18-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Its Complicated"

    I'm not going to show my ignorance and say this book was complete and utter crap BUT unless you really want to think about what your listening to, as opposed to me who doesn't really want to have to think to hard about the plot, this book is not for you.
    Perhaps by listening to the entire book it all becomes somewhat more worthwhile, but I got tired of searching for meaning, symbolism or just some connection between the various settings in the book and how characters were connected - if at all. and most of the time the absurbity of what is being discused is to hard to make sense of anyway.
    However my husband - who thought it was rubbish also insisted we listen the entire book as he wanted to know how the first chapters tied into the remainder - so there must be some hook there somewhere.
    Felt like I had wasted my eight hour trip to town!

    2 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen South Pasadena, CA, USA 07-07-09
    Karen South Pasadena, CA, USA 07-07-09 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Odd to say the least"

    I bought the book based on the reviews and the audible reading to which I listened. The beginning was actually intriguing as a mystery story. The rest of the book was odd to say the least. The reader did a great job with making the story come alive. I just wish the story hadn't been so weird.

    1 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 13 results PREVIOUS12NEXT
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  • Neil
    Sheffield, South Yorkshire, United Kingdom
    12/29/07
    Overall
    "On a Different Planet . . ."

    Many reviews have been written about this title elsewhere on the web, so there seems little point in going into granular detail of what it?s about here. Just visit them and I think you?ll get the general picture. As for my opinion of it ? to be honest I?m left in two minds. I started off loving it, then hated it and at the end couldn?t really decide whether I?d enjoyed it or not! Yes, without doubt it?s strange, immensely clever, original (almost a forerunner to Father Ted in some of the more comic elements - guessing a stranger?s name immediately springs to mind for those of you who are fans of the series) and contains some of the best writing I have ?listened to?. The narration is also first rate (yet another Father Ted connection here too).

    However, it could just be me but parts of this simply bored the pants off of me. I normally get through a lengthy (12 hours) audio book in a week or two but this one took me over a month and its just under seven hours long! The reason - well there?s only so much otherworldly ?nonsense? you can listen to and not let your thoughts drift off. If you let that happen then you loose the plot of course (not that I?m sure that really matters at times in this case) and have to 'rewind' or take a break from it.

    So ? should you get this? It?s difficult to say really. I think some will absolutely love it and others hate it. To be honest its complete rubbish but then again wonderful rubbish ? I?m not being very helpful here am I? Oh go on, if you want to try something different then give it a go and see how you feel at the end of it ? what?s a few quid eh? Now I know how it ends I may even have a re-listen to see how it all pieces together. How many audio books can you say that about? I think I must have liked it (probably)!

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Ken
    Congleton, Cheshire, United Kingdom
    2/25/11
    Overall
    "Not for me"

    Whilst I could see the whimsy aspect it became repetitive and ultimately boring.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Nigel Nicholson
    London England
    3/10/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Imaginative brilliance"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Third Policeman to be better than the print version?

    Jim Norton is the best reader of audiobooks bar none. His reading of Ulysses is a revelation - making the book readable to me for the first time, but this is also inspiring - and very very funny for O'Brien's tale is a wonderful demonstration of how to make a nonsensical and unfilmable plot into something tangible and compelling. It is a perfect demonstration of how the requirements of logic can appear to be suspended and yet still operating at a narrative level. Totally brilliant all round.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • John
    Lisbellaw, United Kingdom
    2/16/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A tricky man with a tricky pipe!"
    What made the experience of listening to The Third Policeman the most enjoyable?

    Wonderful language and beautifully pitched narration. Lovely use of odd descriptive terms


    What did you like best about this story?

    The use of language and the characters. Its not about the destination....its all about the journey


    Have you listened to any of Jim Norton’s other performances? How does this one compare?

    No


    If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Like the lovechild of Father Ted and The Guard on acid


    Any additional comments?

    Flann O'Brien wrote extensively in an Irish version of English. The odd grammar reflects elements of Irish sentence structure that helps imbue the language with extra absurdity. Its a shame that the influence of the Irish language will be superceded by the cocacolanistion of Ireland (and the UK) by the dominant American media culture

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • S Ounsworth
    brighton,
    11/8/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Terrific reading of a great book"
    Any additional comments?

    This is one of the two or three best audiobooks I've yet heard (Julian Rhind-Tutt's Master and Margarita and Anthony Heald's Crime and Punishment both being worth a mention as well.) I'd actually recommend this above just reading the book straight, because Jim Norton's command southern Irish accents and total understanding of the text bring out the humour in a way no voice in your head is likely to. Someone should drag this man bodily back into the studio and MAKE him record At Swim-Two-Birds.

    As for the book itself... well, it's possibly the weirdest book I know. Kind of Crime and Punishment meets Alice with a hint of Father Ted thrown into the mix. I think it's a (slightly flawed) masterpiece, others think it's a mess. But even if it doesn't hold together for you, it's probably still worth it just for some absolutely fabulous flights of the comic imagination.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Sile
    Kent, England
    4/7/13
    Overall
    "An Oddity"

    As has been mentioned on another review, this book is not the usual fayre and thus has been received by many with mixed feelings.



    It's an odd read: strange happenings - a lot involving bicycles - in pursuit of ill gotten gains. Treachery abounds in a place populated by unusual souls. I kind of understood the main character's predicament and so there were no suprises in the ending for me.



    This version is well narrated, though I may have had the occasional quibble with pronunciation. There are footnotes in this book (be warned!) mostly relating to the work of a fictional scientist and philosopher, de Selby, which interrupt the storyline and I'm not sure how these contribute to the plot - really - but Mr Norton deals with these deftly.



    I'm not sure I could recommend this book; it certainly held my interest on long, boring commutes, but is that really a recommendation? I don't think I would intentionally sit down to read it; in fact, I've had a hard copy on my bookshelves for a few years now never having passed the first page. Still, the audio was pleasant, but it truly was an odd choice of material.



    If you want something weird, odd, strange and befuddling, this is the audio book for you.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-6 of 6 results

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