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

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.


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!

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.


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.)

Rob Poole

I finished the Dirk Gently book. I read it mostly in one sitting. I did like it, but I will admit that it seems like this book was only setting up characters and ideas for a better book. While I liked Dirk Gently as a character, I can't say that I very much liked any of the other characters, except for maybe the Electric Monk. The cast of boring Brits only seemed to serve as fodder for Dirk to quietly weasel his way into this strange world. Also, things seemed to happen relatively fast throughout the novel. One moment Richard is talking to Reg and then the next Gordon is dead and Richard is to blame and then the next Richard is off the hook and Michael is possessed by a ghost and trying to use a time machine that we only just discovered even exists. As a mystery the novel isn't very mysterious, so I assume it isn't a mystery. As a satire it is much better, being relatively light-hearted and a fun to read. I think Adams' prose is the star in the book. He's a funny guy and effortlessly tells stories that make you smile. I would have enjoyed a novel that more centrally focused on Dirk, but in another fashion I think that maybe that would have been less enjoyable to read. In conclusion, I think it's a classic Adams installment, but I definitely don't like it as much as I liked Hitchhiker's Guide. All the silly science fiction bits in the Guide tickle me, but Dirk Gently isn't quit as fantastical in some ways. I think it's because Arthur Dent is thrust into this whole new incredible world and we as readers feel equally as thrust into this silly bit of science fiction. Dirk has this arrogant air about him because he wants to seem like he already knows what's going on before it ever happens, so we feel less connected to the story because we don't know what's going on. I guess that's why he threw Richard MacDuff into the story, so we could at least have someone a bit more relative, but Richard doesn't seem to have the charm that Arthur Dent has. I am excited to read the next installment. I hope it has deeper characters and more silly bits.


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.


One of the most annoying things about reading the Kindle edition of this book was the fact that popular highlights show up and you can't turn them off, at least not easily. It drove me mad. It was inevitably the parts that you'd pick out as funny for yourself, not anything surprisingly good...Anyway, I grew up with Douglas Adams' work in the background, on the radio while we ate or while me and my sister played after dinner and my dad tried to relax. He's a big Douglas Adams fan, though he sticks mostly to the radio stuff, thinking that has more life.I do enjoy Douglas Adams' writing, but I didn't find Dirk Gently as compulsive to read as Hitchhiker's Guide. There were a lot of good bits -- things I might pull out as memorable quotes -- but it didn't come out that memorably as a whole. The quotes are memorable without the story surrounding them. They're sort of bon mots that felt sort of pasted in, for the most part.It's fun, don't get me wrong, and it was excellent train reading: entertaining without needing my full focus.

colleen the contrarian ± (... never stop fighting) ±

2.5So, I picked this up because it was a BotM in one of my groups and I was in the mood for something light and funny. I wanted real laugh-out-loud kind of humor, but, unfortunately, I thought there were only a few chuckles or wry grins, but I don't think one single vocal laugh in the whole book. Well, not for me, anyway. And most of the humor was towards the beginning and started petering out as it progressed, so... yeah... As for the story itself - it's an odd little thing in which we don't actually meet the title character until a bit more than halfway through (or at least that's what it seemed), and while he was kind of interesting I just didn't care all that much about the overall story.The one character that I wanted to see more of was the Electric Monk and his horse (ok, I guess that's two characters), but after they served their purpose, so to speak, we don't see all that much of them, and that was disappointing.Overall not a terrible story, but I'd hoped for so much more than random zaniness which felt forced in places and often disconnected. Meh.


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..

P. Aaron Potter

It's all about the couch.Allow me to elucidate. Doug Adams book. Funny? Sure. Satirical? Check. But would you have guessed intricately plotted?Adams, who practically invented the vein of British literary humor now being minted hand-over-fist by Terry Pratchett, is in fine form with this novel, his major work outside the Hitchhiker's universe. We get the same bumbling protaginsts, the gently affable quasi-villain, the apocalyptic-threat-which-is-not-a-threat, the deft one-sentence-paragraph narratorial asides. Check, check, and checkeroo.But we also get something we can't have gotten in Hitchhikers, which was written in sometimes lightning-round single drafts, sometimes mere minutes before the radio-plays would hit the air. Under those circumstances, there was no way for Adams to think too far in advance. It had to be joke, bang, plot, joke, action, joke, exposition...and it shows in the number of times he wrote himself into a corner and then had to pull a Deus-ex-Machina out of the sky to save the narrative.Not so in Dirk Gently, where tiny throw-away details become massively essential plot points late in the book, and all of the little details together topple into a eperfect, crystalline structure by the end of the story. The perfect example is the bit about the couch. At the beginning of the story, we see our poor schlepp of a protagonist working his way over a couch which has gotten wedged in his stairwell. Cute bit of physical humor, and in a lesser book, that would be the end of it. Instead, long about the penultimate chapter, the couch problem becomes a part of the solution to the whole messy apocalyptic threat mentioned earlier. It's a breathtaking bit of plotting, and I can't help but think Adams revelled in the chance to prove that his gift was not just the ability to make up rapid-fire absurdity, but to really master a novel, show it who'se boss, in a way which is entirely satisfying to the reader.


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.


"'Ah,' said Dirk, 'it is a rare mind indeed that can render the hitherto nonexistent blindingly obvious. The cry "I could have thought of that" is a very popular and misleading one, for the fact is that they didn't, and a very significant and revealing fact it is too.'"Douglas Adams brings his characteristically odd sense of humor to the mystery genre, tying music, literature, and quantum mechanics into a story of murder and paranormal activity. That the various plot threads come together only toward the end is to be expected; it *is* a mystery story, after all. But the solution, though it ties the threads together well, seems to come out of nowhere. How much this bothers you will depend on how much you enjoy Adams' quirky style.An enjoyable read, but not quite as good as the "Hitchhiker" books.

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!

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.


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.

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