Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (Dirk Gently #1)

ISBN: 0671625829
ISBN 13: 9780671625825
By: Douglas Adams

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About this book

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.

Reader's Thoughts


I recently watched the pilot episode of Dirk Gently and loved it. So, naturally, I picked up the book. Now this order of doing things is often frowned upon by many people, including me, but sometimes things just happen. The reason I'm telling you this is that I was slightly let down by the book, having seen (a version of) Dirk Gently in action before reading about him. There just wasn't enough of the detective in the book, while he (both versions) is such an interesting character. And yes, it was a fun little book, but felt a bit random and not as interconnected as it should have been, considering the holistic approach Dirk promotes.Also, having looked into some other reviews before writing my own, I have to say that a) I'm not going to touch on the Pratchett vs. Adams thing, but the seemingly random scenes in the beginning of the book and the time it took to actually reach the main character did remind me of many Discworld novels (nothing original about that technique, just saying). b) The Doctor Who connection - it's certainly strong, then again I'm a Doctor Who maniac. But I think it's safe to say that those of us who can't wait until the next Doctor Who episode (September!) will certainly enjoy Dirk Gently's company.


Auf den ersten Seiten sitzt man bei diesem Buch und fragt sich, worauf will dieser Kerl eigentlich hinaus. Man versteht nur Bahnhof und erst langsam lüften sich die Schleier. Wie verbindet man einen elektrischen Mönch, ein Pferd im Badezimmer, einen ermordeten Millionär der als Geist weiterlebt aber dessen Leiche verschwunden ist, ein Sofa das im Stiegenhaus steckt, einen versponnen Inhaber des Lehrstuhls für Chronologie (der selbst nicht weiß womit sich sein Lehrstuhl eigentlich beschäftigt) und einen aus Transsylvanien stammenden Privatdetektiv der scheinbar vollkommen abseits der Realität steht? Schwierig, sehr schwierig, das ist klar. Anders aber als in vielen Krimis in denen das Rätselraten Teil des Leseerlebnisses ist, kommt man hier kaum zu vernünftigen Schlüssen, das liegt natürlich daran, dass nicht viel alltägliche Erfahrung hinter der Handlung steckt, es ist einfach echt schräg. Klar kommt man dennoch zu Ergebnissen und es zeichnet sich auch der Schatten eines Zusammenhangs von Anfang an ab, bloß es ist irgendwie nicht wirklich passend - und auf das Ergebnis kommen wohl nur die Allerwenigsten auch nur ansatzweise.Sprachlich ist Douglas Adams auch in diesem Werk natürlich brilliant. Sein Wortwitz und seine Art zu schreiben sind etwas ganz Besonderes. Stilistisch aber auch seitens des Plots hat Adams es in diesem Buch allerdings übertrieben. Es passt alles nicht wirklich zusammen, und auch wenn es am Ende passend gemacht wird, kommt selten wirkliche Lesebegeisterung auf. Positiv fällt auf, dass die Charaktere nicht so flach sind, wie man sie bei einem Buch das vor allem Spaß (im engeren Sinn) machen will, erwarten würde.Dennoch bleibt das Buch aufgrund seiner verworrenen Handlung nur sehr schwer zu lesen, denn die Konzentration ist nur sehr schwer zu halten. Es plätschert meistens einfach dahin und die wirklich großen Reißer sind leider nicht drinnen. Bestimmt nicht der beste Adams den es gibt.


I did not like this book. I can see my choice to not read it was right on the money.I must say I was very disappointed. I'm a big fan of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide series, so I had high expectations for another tounge-in-cheek story.It just goes to show that just because lots of critics think something is good doesn't mean it will be good.*SPOILERS AHEAD*The whole book drags for the first 3/4. Similar to HHG, the are various stories happening in parallel. But, unlikle HHG, the stories don't get connected in the end. The whole electronic monk thing was annoying. Also, the time travel component with the alien ship that was ultimately responsible for creation of life on Earth was yet another rehash of Ray Bradbury's time travel story where dinosuars are hunted.Also, for a book with the title 'Dirk' in it, a good part of the book doesn't involve Dirk. Dirk only comes in about after the midway point. And, one we meet Dirk, I found him very annoying. I wasn't sure to dismiss Dirk or punch him in the mouth.I have no plans to read the rest of this series, but I am glad I read it. Now I know that it really wasn't that good.


I want an electric monk.As Douglas Admas tells us in this book, every civilization creates mechanical devices designed to save us from our labor. We have diswashers to wash our tedious dishes for us, VCRs to watch those tedious television programs so we don't have to, and finally the Electric Monk to believe on those things we can't be bothere to believe in.Is that cool, or what?As strange as it sounds, the Electric Monk is actually integral to the plot. But this plot is complex enough to deserve it. The main character, more or less, is Richard MacDuff, an up-and-coming young computer programmer who has several unique problems. The first problem is that of his couch - it's stuck in the stairwell and, by all logic as affirmed by the best computer modeling systems, should never have gotten where it was in the first place.The second problem is that he's wanted for the murder of his bosss. He didn't do it, of course, but that kind of thing doesn't really impress the police. And, of course, there's the problem with the woman he loves, Susan, who just so happens to be the sister of the boss whom Richard is accused of murdering.Add into all that the titular Dirk Gently, if that is his real name. Dirk is a man who, since college, has unswayingly, constantly denied having any kind of psychic powers whatsoever - which caused him some problems during his university days when he managed to correctly predict, down the the comma, the contents of a major exam.Now older and weirder, Dirk runs his Holistic Detective Agency. His work rests on one simple principle: the Fundamental Interconnectedness of All Things. Based on a common misunderstanding of quantum theory, Dirk believes that all things are fundamentally connected to all other things, no matter how tenuous those connections might appear to the unaided eye. So during the course of, say, looking for a lost cat, it is entirely possible that he may have to go down to the beach in Bermuda. Because, fundamentally, all things are connected. And billable.Then there's the matter of a time machine hidden in Cambridge and the temptation that can arise from having one. With what amounts to a TARDIS, one could go to any point in time and space. You could visit ancient lands, pet extinct animals or, if necessary, fix something that had gone terribly, terribly wrong. It's tricky, but it can be done. And if you're the ghost of an alien whose simple mistake – putting his trust in an Electric Monk, for example – consigned it to billions of years of insubstantial solitude, a time machine might be very tempting indeed.There's really no good way to summarize this book. As Douglas Adams is fond of doing, there seem to be several plotlines and events which, at first, seem to ha ve no relation to each other. But as you read, you find out that the Electric Monk isn't as funny as we thought he was, that putting a salt shaker into a piece of pottery can cause more problems than you think, and that you should always be afraid of people with nothing to lose.As Dirk claims, all things in this book are fundamentally interconnected, even if it's not obvious at the moment.Yes, even the couch.


Adams' first fiction foray into a world other than the one(s) created for the Hitchhiker's Trilogy is a treat: a detective story filled with the same bizarre happenings and twists, described and narrated in Adams' inimitable comedic style. Unlike the Hitchhiker's books, however, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency was written to be a stand-alone story, with a definite beginning, middle, and end. In many ways, this was Adams' first attempt at writing a proper novel--and he succeeds wildly. I was immediately captivated by the character of Dirk Gently, and drawn headfirst into his swirling, wildly-skewed version of reality, where everything is connected to everything else--so much so that something innocent randomly said on page five can (and does) become critically important on page 205. Don't bother trying to figure out the plot before the book ends, because you won't be able to do it. This is a detective novel, yes, but a Douglas Adams detective novel, where spaceships, time travel, Bach, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, tea, pizza, and ex-boyfriends are so intricately linked that your head will be swimming by the time you finish the last sentence. But the dizziness is well-worth the effort.

Ismael Galvan

Weird and weird and British and weird. That's Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective. I just finished Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and needed a second helping of Douglas Adams's zany imagination. I looked up what other works he's done and was like, "Holy @%*! Batman, Adams wrote a detective novel!" A trip to the book store later, I held Dirk Gently in my hands.The beginning has a slow start up. I kept waiting for a story to form. The scenes were nice but where was the plot? And where the hell is this so-called holistic detective I'm so anxious to meet? For a minute I seized by unsettling though, "Oh crap, I spent 1,100 Yen on a dud! I knew I should have went with The Restaurant at the End of the Universe."No! I know Adams wouldn't take my beer money in so cruel a fashion. Then somewhere, a little late by my liking yet happily nonetheless, the magical Adams magic splashed across the pages like a spilled glass of Gargle Blaster. It got stranger, psychedelic-er, sci-fi-er, paranormal-er, and then, AND THEN, I was searching books forums to explain the ending.And then I said, "Oh, well I didn't know who the hell Sam Coleridge was."Despite this speed-bump, I dug this book. It has a darker and more subdued tone than the Hitchhiker's series. I'm anxious to read book two.

Ian Wood

Douglas Adams' underated masterpiece leads Dirk Gently from a search for a missing cat to unlocking the secrets of time travel and saving the human race from total extinction. I thought no-one could write a better comic novel than 'The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy' until I first read this. I've subsequently re-read this novel countless times and it never fails to entertain, I'm still finding references to literature and popular culture that I've previously missed. That a novel can be re-read despite the reader knowing what is about to happen is a testement to any novel but this one can be re-read with a suspition that something different will happen this time!

Nell Grey

** spoiler alert ** Definitely an original, clever and admirable novel with twists, turns and illusions - rather like sleight of hand performed by a time-travelling magician.I loved the allusions and parallels that I noticed, especially the ones about Kubla Khan, Coleridge's mysterious poem, said to be written after an opium-induced dream, the completion of which was interrupted by the arrival of a person from Porlock. Strangely, just after I'd finished the book I saw part of a programme called Unfinished Masterpieces in which Andrew Motion was speaking of Khubla Khan, and put forward the idea that perhaps there was no such person (from Porlock), that the poem was simply unresolved and better left in this mysterious state with the accompanying story than finished and losing that delicious sense of strangeness. I think he might have something there.I did find trying to note and remember all the seemingly important 'clues' in the first third of the story a slight strain, but settled in as soon as Dirk arrived on the scene and really enjoyed the middle. I felt that it ended rather suddenly, almost as if Douglas Adams had exhausted the possibilities of cleverness and wanted to move on to something new.


I am a firm believer that a bit of British humor is good for the soul...And I am quite American, in case you did not know... “Don’t you understand that we need to be childish in order to understand? Only a child sees things with perfect clarity, because it hasn’t developed all those filters which prevent us from seeing things that we don’t expect to see?” Douglas Adams has a highly quotable, laugh out loud writing style which I adore; I seem to remember a blurb describing this book as The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy with significantly fewer spaceships (I apologize that my memory fails on whom I heard this from) I can't think of a better description myself.This book will forever be on my list of favorite books of all time.There's really not much more I can say about it which could express my love. Some of My Favorite Moments: (view spoiler)[“Hello, Michael? Yes, it’s Susan. Susan Way. You said I shouldcall you if I was free this evening and I said I’d rather be dead in aditch, remember? Well, I suddenly discover that I am free, absolutely,completely and utterly free, and there isn’t a decent ditch for milesaround. Make your move while you’ve got your chance is my advice toyou. I’ll be at the Tangiers Club in half an hour.”“The teacher usually learns morethan the pupil. Isn’t that true?”“It would be hard to learn much less than my pupils,” came a lowgrowl from somewhere on the table, “without undergoing a pre-frontallobotomy.”...he walked a little like an affrontedheron.The other was small, roundish, and moved with an ungainlyrestlessness, like a number of elderly squirrels trying to escape froma sack.“It seems odd,don’t you think, that the quality of the food should vary inverselywith the brightness of the lighting. Makes you wonder what culinaryheights the kitchen staff could rise to if you confined them to perpetual darkness.”“Well,” said Reg, in a loudly confidential whisper, as if introducing the subject of nipple-piercing in a nunnery, “I hear you’vesuddenly done very well for yourself, at last, hmmm?”“Did you know, young lady,” said Watkin to her, “that the Book of Revelation was written on Patmos? It was indeed. By Saint John the Divine, as you know. To me it shows very clear signs of having been written while waiting for a ferry. Oh, yes, I think so. It starts off, doesn’t it, with that kind of dreaminess you get when you’re killing time, getting bored, you know, just making things up, and then gradually grows to a sort of climax of hallucinatory despair. I find that very suggestive.”Pink valleys, hermaphrodite tables, these were all natural stages through which one had to pass on the path to true enlightenment.The door was the way to…to…The Door was The Way.Good.Capital letters were always the best way of dealing with things you didn’t have a good answer to.By means of an ingenious series of strategically deployed denials of the most exciting and exotic things, he was able to create the myth that he was a psychic, mystic, telepathic, fey, clairvoyant, psychosassic vampire bat.What did “psychosassic” mean?It was his own word and he vigorously denied that it meantanything at all.“Or maybe she decided that an evening with your old tutor would be blisteringly dull and opted for the more exhilarating course of washing her hair instead. Dear me, I know what I would have done. It’s only lack of hair that forces me to pursue such a hectic social round these days.”Gordon Way was dead, but he simply hadn’t the slightest idea whathe was meant to do about it. It wasn’t a situation he had encountered before."...I bet that even the very lowest form of dysentery amoeba shows up to take its girlfriend out for a quick trot around the stomach lining once in a while...”Richard reflected that Dirk’s was a face into which too much had already been put. What with that and the amount he talked, the traffic through his mouth was almost incessant. His ears, on the other hand, remained almost totally unused in normal conversation.“Exploiting?” asked Dirk. “Well, I suppose it would be if any body ever paid me, but I do assure you, my dear Richard, that there never seems to be the remotest danger of that...”“Let us go. Let us leave this festering hell hole. Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not effit after all.”“Don’t you understand that we need to be childish in order to understand? Only a child sees things with perfect clarity, because it hasn’t developed all those filters which prevent us from seeing things that we don’t expect to see?”“Sir Isaac Newton, renowned inventor of the milled-edge coinand the catflap!”“The what?” said Richard.“The catflap! A device of the utmost cunning, perspicuity and invention. It is a door within a door, you see, a…”“Yes,” said Richard, “there was also the small matter of gravity.”“Gravity,” said Dirk with a slightly dismissive shrug, “yes, there was that as well, I suppose. Though that, of course, was merely adiscovery. It was there to be discovered.”He took a penny out of his pocket and tossed it casually on to the pebbles that ran alongside the paved pathway.“You see?” he said, “They even keep it on at weekends. Someone was bound to notice sooner or later. But the catflap…ah, there is a very different matter. Invention, pure creative invention.”“...If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family Anatidae on our hands.”“Now. Having saved the entire human race from extinction I could do with a pizza...”(hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

John Wiswell

Imagine a mystery where you weren't certain what the characters were supposed to figure out, who was involved, how anything could have happened, and where the only character who was even out to figure it out was someone nobody else believed? That is a tough sell for any writer other than Douglas Adams, who pioneered the post-modern comedy that relies more on cleverness in individual scenes that what strings them together. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency is even less cohesive that the Hitchhikers series, jumping from a scene with a robot designed to believe as many things as possible and his frustrated horse, to a ghost trying to hitchhike his way home, to a boring a dinner at a college, to the holistic detective agency of a man who uses the highly fallible intricacies of the universe to find missing cats. That detective, his secretary, that ghost, and some unsuspecting bystanders will have to figure out what the mystery is and solve it before... well, I can't tell you or that would spoil. But you get it now, don't you? It's a holistic mystery.Adams gleefully plays upon new age philosophy, new age skepticism, quantum physics, and the mathematical revelations that led many severe non-hippies to realize everything really may be connected in a very physical way that we've all known about all along but never realized. It's all so preposterous that no other writer, even Terry Pratchett, could really swing it. While making more pointed jabs at certain sensitive spots than his other novels, it retains the classic Adams absurd good-naturedness that the world could use a lot more of. Sadly, the world doesn't even have that many of his books.I got a holistic bonus with my reading experience. As I’ve got to spend the week off my feet for my ankle to heal I scooped up a bunch of books out of a box of those I’ve meant to read. A Samuel Coleridge anthology was on top of the pile; I like to keep at least one classic in any batch of books I read. But I decided to start by cheering myself up with the unique stylings of Adams in this, the last of his books I’ve yet to read. His book makes numerous references to Coleridge, and even has a character pick up his own Coleridge anthology to read some of it. Reading about Adams’s character reading Coleridge when it was the next book I meant to read and was two feet away, I felt I got the entire Gently experience.


I first read this book quite a while ago, probably not long after it came out. A time we could look forward to a Douglas Adams book instead of having to look back to the past. He is missed.I don't think I got anything more out of Dirk Gently than I did twenty years ago, but that's just fine.It's funny without being silly, wry without being mean. I love Adams's humor, his turns of phrase, and how everything comes together in the end. Or the beginning. Or both.


I hadn't read any Douglas Adams before. The first few chapters, I thought "This writing isn't all that great, and I'm not sure what's going on", and that was about that. Then, after a few chapters, I started to be charmed a little, and the plot started to suck me in. For the first half of the book, that's pretty much where I remained: fairly interested and occasionally amused. Then, around halfway through, things started coming together, and I realised that although Adams may not have been among the greatest ever prose writers, he could damn sure conceive and construct a story. And the comedy just kept getting better too. And then, with around 30-odd pages to go, almost out of nowhere, he blew me away for the first time, really amazing me with the (actually fairly small and insignificant) turn the plot took. And over the final few pages, he consistently dazzled me with the sheer scale, audacity and intricacy of what he'd pulled off, as well as filling me with a fairly hefty sense of wonder. I actually had to stop reading for a minute or so every few pages to give myself chance to recover. When I'd finished, it felt as if a small but important fuse had blown somewhere in my brain. I kept going back and rereading small sections to make sure I hadn't missed anything, and to appreciate things for a second time. Overall, the set-up is OK, but the payoff is fantastic!


One reading is just not enough to appreciate this unassuming masterpiece. The book starts off with visions of absolute nothingness and absolute.. pinkness. From there it meanders to Cambridge, where a dinner is being hosted in memory of Samuel Taylor Coleridge at his old college, St. Cedd's. One thing leads to another, and skipping over an inexplicable magic trick, and an even more inexplicable murder of a tech billionaire, we reach the point where the stage is set for the entry of Dirk Gently (nee Svlad Cjelli), previously also of St. Cedd's College, Cambridge. We find him knee deep in handling a phone call with a disgruntled cat owner, whose cat he has been trying to locate for the past 8 years at great expense (to the client), and without result. I must quote this passage, where he is explaining to the cat owner why his agency is called "The Holistic Detective Agency": "I'm very glad you asked me that, Mrs Rawlinson. The term `holistic' refers to my conviction that what we are concerned with here is the fundamental interconnectedness of all things. I do not concern myself with such petty things as fingerprint powder, telltale pieces of pocket fluff and inane footprints. I see the solution to each problem as being detectable in the pattern and web of the whole. The connections between causes and effects are often much more subtle and complex than we with our rough and ready understanding of the physical world might naturally suppose, Mrs Rawlinson."Let me give you an example. If you go to an acupuncturist with toothache he sticks a needle instead into your thigh. Do you know why he does that, Mrs Rawlinson?No, neither do I, Mrs Rawlinson, but we intend to find out. A pleasure talking to you, Mrs Rawlinson. Goodbye." There you have it. The philosophy of Mr Gently, the detective in a nutshell. The rest of the book is all about how he manages to use these methods to solve an entire array of mysteries - and also save all life on earth in the process.Speaking of his methods, here's another gem:“Sherlock Holmes observed that once you have eliminated the impossible then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the answer. I, however, do not like to eliminate the impossible.” Even Mr. Holmes would have doffed his deerstalker at that!To summarise, as mentioned in the beginning, this is definitely not a book that can be fully appreciated in one reading. It needs to be savoured a second time, to get the real flavour out of it. After many many years, I finished a book and instinctively turned back to page 1 and started reading it again. It turns out I was not the only one. Richard Dawkins also did the same, and what's more, wrote a fan-letter to Douglas Adams after reading it the second time. This connected the two and sowed the seeds of a life-long friendship. (Read this "lament" - written on the day following Adams's death in 2001 - to understand their relationship better - http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2001/ma...)I will let the second reading sink in, and maybe read it once more, after a few months. Closing with the most famous quote from the book: “Let's think the unthinkable, let's do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.” Gosh, Douglas Adams, you went much too soon..


I thought I had read this before, but clearly I hadn't. If I had, I would have read it ten times by now, because it is that good. The plot is as clear as a pointillist painting, so the reader's understanding of the ending really depends on where said reader is standing in relation, and how much processing power that reader is willing to give it. Adams doesn't focus so much on the humor and inventive side notes as he did with my beloved Hitchhiker's Guide, though it is both funny and creative. The first third to half of the book might feel like vastly unrelated bits of plot being strung together, so I imagine it would be easy to assume, say, that the (redacted) is just a strange aside that won't come much into play... and you would be shocked and perhaps confused later, because everything comes into play.To sum up, I loved this perhaps more than the Hitchhiker's Guide, and look forward to reading it again at some point so I can spot the clues even earlier.(Oddly enough, I recently read Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead and think that Claire DeWitt and Dirk Gently are at least literary cousins, being odd, holistic, and excellent detectives, though in very different worlds.)

Steve Mitchell

The five books that make up the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy trilogy (I know, I know) are my favourite novels of all time. However, Dirk Gently is my favourite character that the late Douglas Adams created: just piping Ford Prefect and Marvin, the paranoid android, to that particular title.In his first outing, the holistic detective that bases his investigations on the fundamental interconnectedness of everything becomes embroiled in a case where he immediately realises that two aspects are actually impossible. Fortunately the word impossible is not found in our hero’s dictionary; in fact, everything from herring to marmalade appears to be absent.It is a case that pans out to include ghosts, electric monks, horses inexplicably in second storey bathrooms, murder, pizza, clairvoyance, a stuck sofa, a visitor from Porlock and a university professor adept at conjuring tricks in a plot that a mere mortal such as I would only ruin if I attempted to summarise. This is one of those books that you just have to read, although background knowledge of the works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge would be beneficial in this case.

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