Book review: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams


the cover of the book

Yes, I do love Douglas Adams. Yes, this book is one of my most favouritest books on the face of the earth, and one of my most treasured possessions. And, caveat, they recently made a fun BBC tv series of it! Hip hip hooray!

The story

Consider: creatures from the depths of Coleridge's addled psyche, an electric monk who is glitching to believe everything is a very particular shade of pink, a boyfriend who never remembers to show up because he's trying to prove mathematical impossibilities, and a dead man. How do they all fit together? Who can find the unlikely solution to questions such as how a salt shaker got into a terribly old greek vase and who put a horse in the bathroom?

Richard McDuff isn't sure, his main problem is that he made a lot of money in computers but can't figure out how his couch got stuck in the stairwell, in a manner than his computer tells him is physically impossible. His other problems include forgetting to take his girlfriend out for dinner, and his boss being killed unexpectedly.

To the rescue comes a very shady figure from his college past, Dirk Gently. While McDuff isn't at all sure that he needs to be rescued, Dirk is convinced something is afoot, and the something that is afoot has the potential to destroy life on earth as we know it. Can McDuff overcome his natural suspicion of Dirk and his stupid hat, and with the help of his reluctant girlfriend and old college professor, save the world?

The style

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Douglas Adams knows how to tie together a story. It's something he's just naturally very, very good at, and there is never a neglected thread even though pretty much all the way through you're kind of dubiously wondering exactly how everything could possibly be related. It's a marvel to behold, and all those odds I mentioned in the first bit of the plot fall together like dominoes at the end. The man was a wonder.

The style is classic Adams; British and dry and hilarious and good natured. This book was written in 1987, and even though computing has obviously changed enormously, Dirk Gently is easy to read and not at all outdated. It has stood the test of the last twenty five years beautifully, and yes, I do re-read it often. It's a bang-up mystery with a fat hat wearing detective who nobody really likes; what's not to appreciate?

Who is this book for?

If you loved Hitchhikers, and you haven't read Dirk Gently, GET ON IT RIGHT NOW YOU'RE MISSING OUT.

If you like this book, you would also like...

You know I'm going to say Hitchhikers, right? Because I am. Also, I love the books by the Red Dwarf guys if you've done your Douglas Adams dash. Grant and Naylor are their names. British humour at its loveliest.



In short

Title: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
Author: Douglas Adams
Publisher: Pan Books
ISBN: 0-330-30162-4
Year published: 1987
Pages: 247
Genre(s): Humour, Fiction