A review of this — 6 years ago
The name of the book’s hero is never revealed, although we do learn a little of his past. His father worked as a farmer, while his mother ran a pub – both, unfortunately, died while our hero was still young. He was subsequently sent to a boarding school and, although the pub and farm were now technically his, a certain John Divney was employed to run both while he finished his education. It’s while he’s at school our hero first stumbles across the work of a scientist called De Selby. Although De Selby appears to have been an utter crackpot, our hero falls under his spell and decides to gather a collection of De Selby’s works, and those of his more noted commentators. His search, at one point, sees him breaking his left leg so badly, it has to be replaced by a wooden leg.
Eventually, he returns to the ancestral home, where – for the first time – he meets Divney. Where De Selby is a crackpot, Divney is clearly a thief and a rogue of the highest order – he is, however, kept on to help on around the farm. At the same time, our hero decides to dedicate himself to writing the definitive `De Selby Index’. Once finished, he knows he has completed a work of great importance. However, he also knows he’ll have to publish it himself – something he just doesn’t have the money for. The ever-scheming Divney has a cunning plan, however : unfortunately, it involves the duo murdering a rich and aged neighbour called Mathers.
The attack goes relatively well for the pair : Mathers dies, the cashbox is removed from the corpse – which, in turn, is carefully buried – and nobody gets caught. Unfortunately, Divney sneaks off and hides the cashbox and waits three years before revealing where he’s hidden it : under the floorboards of a certain room in Mather’s house. It’s our hero who’s dispatched to collect it – however, the second he touches it, things change dramatically. The box disappears, our hero realises he has forgotten his name, he starts having conversations with his soul (which he christens Joe)…and he discovers Mathers sitting in a chair watching him. During the ensuing conversation with his murder victim, he hears of a nearby police barracks, staffed by Sergeant Pluck and Policeman MacCruiskeen. (There is also a mysterious third policeman by the name of Fox who apparently hasn’t been seen in twenty-five years. As it turns out, however, he is still on the beat). What our forgetful hero hears about Pluck and MacCruiskeen, however, inspires him to visit the pair – in the hope they’ll be able to find his cashbox for him. Naturally, things don’t quite go according to plan…
There are a number of words that spring to mind when trying to describe “The Third Policeman”…bizarre and surreal would be prominent, so it may not be to everyone’s tastes. There’s also quite a few footnotes, relating to the work of De Selby, some of which are a little too detailed – you could probably skip them without losing any of the enjoyment of the story.