By Douglas Adams
Reviewed by Alan Green
Are you in trouble? Have you lost your cat? Are you in the middle of a messy divorce? If the answer to any of these questions is yes than maybe you should flick through your copy of the yellow pages and see if you can find this ad:
HOLISTIC DETECTIVE AGENCY
We solve the WHOLE crime.
We find the WHOLE person.
Phone today for the WHOLE solution to your problem.
(Missing cats and messy divorces a speciality.)
33a Peckender St., London N1, 01 – 354 9112
To be completely honest Dirk has yet to find anybody’s cat but he might get lucky one day and he is prepared to save the human race from extinction at no extra charge. You can’t say fairer than that.
Dirk Gently is Douglas Adams’ addition to the pantheon of great detectives. He is a wonderful comic character. An eccentric, slightly dodgey, sort of psychic, bumbling but insightful genius who works on the principle that you should never rule out the impossible.
Forget about Sherlock Holmes, Marlowe, Miss Marple, Starsky and Hutch. They are all hopelessly out of date. The future belongs to holistic detective work. This innovative technique is based on the theory that everything in the universe is fundamentally interconnected. This gives Dirk Gently a real edge over the competition especially when it comes to justifying his expenses. Thanks to the interconnectedness of all things a trip to the Bahamas is a vital part of a surprisingly large number of cases.
Douglas Adams cleverly uses the idea that everything is interconnected to tie together some very strange threads. A horse in a bathroom, a valley that isn’t pink, an answer phone message from beyond the grave, a sofa stuck up some stairs, psychic powers, time travel, ghosts, aliens, electric monks, singing company accounts, the complete version of Coleridge’s Kubla Kahn and the dawn of all life on Earth. Part of the appeal of this novel is the way that apparently completely unconnected weird events are neatly linked together.
Our hero rubs shoulders with some strange characters including an Electric Monk, a 200-year-old professor with a huge secret, a ghost who is desperate to finish his phone call and a long-dead alien who wants to change history.
In case you were wondering an Electric Monk is a labour saving device, that believes things for you so you don’t have to bother. Unfortunately this particular monk is on the blink. To make things worse he’s lost his horse and he’s found a gun.
Dirk’s student friend Richard is the everyman figure in the novel. The Arthur Dent character if you like, the ordinary person who shares the readers’ perspective on all the weirdness. He is a computer programmer who specializes in turning company accounts into music. He also developed a computer program that creates a plausible step by step justification for any decision you want to make. Naturally the US government snapped it up. Don’t you just love these little satirical digs? When Richard runs into his old friend Dirk his life begins to slowly unravel. One moment the biggest problem he faces is how to move that sofa, the next he’s wanted for murder, he’s broken into someone’s house for no good reason and he’s having some problems with ghosts.
Here’s a piece of random geeky trivia for you. Douglas Adams used to work as a script editor for Doctor Who. This book is loosely based on two scripts for the show that he wrote himself. They were never aired because industrial action disrupted the filming so they lay fermenting in a drawer until he decided to use them as the basis for a book and thus Dirk Gently was born.
This is the first novel in what should have been a trilogy. Our hero returns in “The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul.” When he died Adams was working on a third adventure called “The Salmon of Doubt.” After his untimely death the unfinished work was published along with some other new material.
“Dirk Gently”s Holistic Detective Agency” is probably the best “detective-ghost-horror-who dunnit-time travel-romantic-musical-comedy-epic” ever written. If you enjoyed the “Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy” series then the Dirk Gently books give you a surely welcome chance to tuck into another surreal slice of Adams” comic genius.