„Dirk Gently’s holistic detective agency“ by Douglas Adams (book review)

It’s all right, it’s just a horse in the bathroom”

-D.Adams “Dirk Gently’s holistic detective agency “

A true laugh-out-loud book. The “Dirk Gently’s holistic detective agency“ (DGHDA) is a detective story, where the murder is a by-product. 

Douglas Adams has a genius of taking (perhaps even somewhat an overused) idea and make it into something witty and clever. The seemingly random storylines, clues, foreshadowing and sometimes even flat out telling what is going on, all come together in the end beautifully. Even after multiple re-reads I still love how you notice new clever jokes and clues, missed on first reading.

Dirk Gently
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency book covers through time.

The DGHDA may be a tricky book to start reading. On my first time I simply powered through a first two (short) prologue-chapters ignoring a feeling that I don’t understand what’s going on. In the third chapter things got a bit easier to read, though not necessarily (or at all) clear yet. However, by that time I was hooked by the humor and in the end it all made sense. His description of academic world are hilarious, dialogues in fictional St Cedd’s college in Cambridge probably rings familiar to anybody involved in an academic life. 

“There really wasn’t a lot this machine could do that you couldn’t do yourself in half the time with a lot less trouble,” said Richard,” but it was, on the other hand, very good at being a slow and dim-witted pupil.”
Reg looked at him quizzically.
“I had no idea they were suppose to be in short supply,” he said. “I could hit a dozen with a bread roll from where I’m sitting.”

-Reg and Richard in St Cedd’s college, Cambridge

In his detective Adams overcomes the usual overused ides about a typical detective. Quirky yet mysteriously charming detectives have become a norm in a detective literature. Being socially awkward is almost  part of the job description. 

Dirk Gently, however, is far from being socially awkward, meaning he is so far on the other side that he could use his own section. He is unpleasant and seemingly without any redeeming qualities. Arrogant, greedy, messy and he is NOT even tall, dark or handsome (despite the TV-adoptions). He is an overweight slob. He is rude and a screw up in so many ways. He can be clever but not a genius by any measure, have an incredible foresight the still somehow makes sense in the story context. You are probably not going to like him as a person, but you will love reading about him.

We solve the whole problem.
Missing cats and messy divorces a specialty. Well not quite that messy, thank you for calling.

Detectives sidekick is supposed to be dumb, Richard is not. He is an old schoolmate and does well for himself in a computer business. Dirk and Richard are both smart and stupid in opposite and complimentary ways. Richard is smart and nerdy in a technical way. Dirk is clever, can think outside the box and include impossible not only in theories but also in solutions.

Side characters include a horse (arguably the smartest being in the book), an ancient scatterbrain professor, surprisingly sensible girlfriend (she is possibly as smart as horse), an obsessive boss, a selfish brat, ghosts, the last dodo, a Bach music and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Susan waited.
The more Susan waited, the more the doorbell didn’t ring. Or the phone. She looked at her watch. She felt that now was about the time that she could legitimately begin to feel cross. She was cross already, of course, but that had been in her own time, so to speak. They were well and truly into his time now.

Concept of the electric monk is a sharp and painfully self-ironic (towards human race).

A great read to anyone who enjoys a laugh-out-loud book with a bit query humor and good detective story that wraps up with a good WOU moment. Enjoyable red from the start (or from a third chapter), though the pure genius and a level of detail in the plot might sink in after second (or even third) re-read. One of my favorite books of all time.

Dirk Gently makes a second appearance in “A long dark teatime of the sole” where he has has to sort out an act of god. Third book was left unfinished by an authors death.

A few quotes from the book, with a great restrain I managed to limit myself before typed out most of the book as a “best quote from the book”

And are you married?” called Reg.

What? Oh, I see what you mean. A sofa stuck on the stairs for a month. Well, no, not married as such, but yes, there is a specific girl that I’m not married to.”

-Reg and Richard

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.

-Electronic monk to himself

“Well, what you have to understand, young lady, is that the Greeks, not content with dominating the culture of the Classical world, are also responsible for the greatest, some would say the only, work of true creative imagination produced this century as well. I refer of course to the Greek ferry timetables. A work of the sublimest fiction. Anyone who has traveled in the Aegean will confirm this.”

“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.
.. 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. ..”

– Professor Watkin talking to a 5 year old

Ruins on the Aegina island
The Temple of Aphaea at Aegina island. Only a short ferry ride from Athens, right?

 

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