Genres: Action & Adventure, Mystery
Series: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency #1
Published by Simon & Schuster on 5/1987
What do a dead cat, a computer whiz-kid, an Electric Monk who believes the world is pink, quantum mechanics, a Chronologist over 200 years old, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (poet), and pizza have in common? Apparently not much; until Dirk Gently, self-styled private investigator, sets out to prove the fundamental interconnectedness of all things by solving a mysterious murder, assisting a mysterious professor, unravelling a mysterious mystery, and eating a lot of pizza – not to mention saving the entire human race from extinction along the way (at no extra charge). To find out more, read this book (better still, buy it, then read it) – or contact Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.
First, Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers!
Richard is a perfectly normal young computer programmer. His former college classmate Dirk Gently is a holistic detective, specializing in missing cats and messy divorces. Richard’s boss is Gordon Way, owner of the largest British computer firm, and Richard is dating Gordon’s younger sister, Susan. Richard and Dirk’s former professor, Reg, is very adept at sleight of hand, and has a fondness for Coleridge. Michael Wenton-Weakes is the former editor of an arts and culture magazine, and also wishes to date Susan. So what on earth do all of these people have to do with each other?
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is definitely more of a “slow burn” than other Douglas Adams novels that I’ve read. There are a lot of threads to be woven together before we can get around to solving the mystery. The mystery? Gordon Way has been murdered. Whodunnit? Working together, the characters muddle along under Dirk’s directions to put the pieces together and save the world, and humanity.
To be honest, I found this novel a bit meandering and even hard to follow at some moments. It was definitely difficult to get into. There’s an entire chapter very early in that introduces the Electric Monk and his horse– but they are introduced without preamble, and then not mentioned again for quite some time. I kept wondering when/if they’d show up again, and how they’d fit into the story. There follows another extended scene at a Cambridge University dinner, where Reg is introduced, along with half a dozen other professors. A heads up: you don’t need to take notes. The other professors, described in some detail, never pop up again in the story.
To be fair, the Electric Monk and events at the dinner do turn out to be quite integral to the plot later on. You may also wonder where the sci-finess is during the early parts of the book… never fear! It gets quite exciting in the second half. Richard is very much the Arthur Dent of the book, a hapless Brit along for the reluctant ride. Poor guy just wants his life back to normal! How can anyone relax or get any work done with horses suddenly appearing in bathrooms and salt shakers suddenly appearing in antique Greek vases? Dirk is the Ford Prefect here; quite haphazardly maneuvering through life, and always accepting the most spectacular possibilities as correct. Their conversational interplay is very amusing. And as I mentioned, there is a good bit of sci-fi in the solving of the mystery, after the setting and characters are established; I don’t want to give away even a hint of the ending so I’m afraid I can’t tell you what all they encounter!
Overall, not Douglas Adams’ most awesome book. Slow to start, with a whirlwind ending. But the characters are definitely likable, and I didn’t have to force myself too hard to stick with it. Solid middle-ground.