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BOOK REVIEW: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

By Berniegourley @berniegourley

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (Dirk Gently, #1)Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Amazon page

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency [DGHDA] is the opening book in Douglas Adams’ second series of novels (what would have been a trilogy—at least–had Adams not passed away.) DGHDA was followed by The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, and that would have been followed by The Salmon of Doubt—though the manuscript was released in its incomplete form along with other random works in a collection by the same name—as publishers are want to make their cash cows rage after the dying of the light.

Adams is most famous for the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy [H2G2] series. DGHDA shares the British absurdist humor of H2G2, but is a more genre-bending a work. While H2G2 crosses humor and sci-fi, DGHDA takes those two genres and throws detective and supernatural fiction into the works. The book was billed by the author as a “detective-ghost-horror-who dunnit-time travel-romantic-musical-comedy-epic.” Of these, “horror” is dubious given the fundamental silliness, “epic” is a little grandiose for a work of 300 pages, and the “romantic” and “musical” parts are rather thin.

The title refers to a detective agency owned by Dirk Gently, who believes in the fundamental interconnectedness of all things and is a bit of a con man. Gently is the lead character in a comedic sense, but his straight man–Richard MacDuff–has at least equal claim to being the book’s overall lead. (Just as straight man Arthur Dent leads in the H2G2 books.) Gently gets involve when he discovers Richard engaged in the inexplicable activity of breaking into the window of his (Richard’s) girlfriend’s apartment—a girlfriend with which he has a favorable relationship. This convinces Gently that Richard has either been hypnotized or possessed, either of which makes him a prime customer of Gently’s agency.

The mystery part of the novel revolves around the new owner and editor of a magazine—Gordon Way–who dies, and whose ghost continues to be active in story (even having PoV chapters in this shifting PoV novel.) Richard comes to believe he’s a suspect, although the bungling former editor of the magazine—Michael Wenton-Weakes–is the lead suspect. Of course, the fact that the deceased is the father of Richard’s girlfriend, Susan Way, does encourage the notion that Richard could be involved. Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a who-dun-it if it was a straightforward case of one of these men with motives having done it.

As would be expected of a book by Douglas Adams, it has its moments of hilarity, but it wasn’t as funny as the best of the H2G2 books. The best absurdist device introduced into the book is the Electronic Monk. In an era in which no one has time for believing in things, one can purchase or rent a robot to believe things for one—particularly those outlandish notions that are unsupported by evidence and thus are least worthy of the effort of belief.

The main characters are all sufficiently quirky to be memorable, likable, or both. The characters are one of the strengths of this book. The story is a bit disheveled, probably purposefully so, but it doesn’t make for the easiest work to follow–particularly early in the story when one hasn’t yet got a firm grasp of who’s who and who’s doing what. That said, it’s a decent enough plot, all things considered.

I’d recommend this for those who like humorous speculative fiction.

View all my reviews

By in Book Reviews, Books, fiction, Review, Reviews, Science Fiction on April 30, 2014.

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