Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

May 29, 2009
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Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

I read Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, by Douglas Adams. This book was published in 1987 by Simon and Schuster, Incorporated. Adams is known for being a science fiction/humor author, and you can see a twist of that in this book. Some people might not consider this much of a mystery, but I do, somewhat. Overall, that is why this is a good book.
One of the real mysteries of this book is the purpose of it. The main purpose may be to tell a story about a murder investigation by tying together three different plotlines into one story and adding a twist of science fiction. If it isn’t that, then this book’s purpose is to prove that old ladies who have lost their cats are susceptible to being scammed by a detective interested in the “fundamental interconnectedness of things” rather than actually finding their cats. This detective’s name is Dirk Gently. The key idea that I think Adams is trying to get across is the paradox of time. This book shows what the time paradox is, how it works and what happens when you mess with it.


It all starts with time starting to pass. At first the world is a dead place. Though it has flowing rivers, mountains and other natural occurrences, it is still a dead place, until time started to pass. Later on we find the Electric Monk on his bored horse looking out over the valley. The Electric Monk was made for humans as a laborsaving device; its purpose was to believe things for people. This particular one is obsolete compared to the newer version.

Richard MacDuff is a smart but confused man with mixed priorities. He is the software technician for WayForward Technologies 2, a company created and run by Gordon Way. (The original WayForward Technologies didn’t do so well.) Gordon Way is always pestering Richard to get things done, and he even nags his sister Susan, who is currently in a relationship with Richard, to get him to finish things. One night, Richard went to his old college tutor’s (Reg’s) house to talk to him. During their conversation, they heard something upstairs, and Reg went to look. When he came back down he said to Richard, “Just a horse,” which left Richard unconvinced. He went up to see for himself and there it was, a horse was standing in the middle of the bathroom.

At the same time, on his way to his much larger than normal cottage, Gordon Way was shot through the chest and thrown in a ditch for no apparent reason. His ghost got up and noticed the gaping hole in his chest and at the same time realized that he couldn’t do anything about it, so he just drifted down the road not knowing where to go.

Realizing that he forgot about his date with Susan, Richard left and went to her flat. For some strange reason he decided to climb up the two-story wall instead of going through the front door. He came to delete some of the messages on her answering machine, but as he was about to do so, Susan walked in the door with Michael Wenton-Weakes. Michael is a vain, snobby, full-grown baby with rich parents. Without his parents, he would be a failure in life, and still basically is. He was talking to Susan about his “problems” over dinner. Obviously, Richard doesn’t like him.

When Richard finds out about Gordon’s death, he goes into a stage of utter confusion. He goes to see Dirk Gently for help. Dirk hypnotizes him so he can get more information from deeper inside Richard’s mind. In doing so, he revealed things that Richard didn’t even know he knew. Dirk also discovered that something had made Richard risk his life by climbing that wall to Susan’s flat that night. There was something very wrong about that night. Richard was now considered a suspect for murder, so police surrounded his house. Dirk needed more details about that night, so he went to Richard’s house to listen to the messages on Susan’s answering machine tape. There he found out what really happened to Gordon that night. Richard and Dirk suspected that Reg had been hiding something, so they went to find out. When Reg tells them that he has a time machine, Dirk finds all the conclusions, accept one. What possessed Richard to climb the wall that night?

That thing happened to be an ancient spirit from four billion years ago. It now possessed Michael’s body, and came to them for help. They all go back in time to help the spirit save his shipmates. What they didn’t know was that by doing so, it would change the future, causing humans to never have existed. Will they save the human race from complete nonexistence? Will they ever find Gordon Way’s killer? This is why you shouldn’t mess with time; it might not work out in the end.

One of the things I like about this book is that it puts a twist of science fiction on the true mystery and confusion of the story. Books like this don’t have to turn out like they are meant to; you just have to recognize the true genius of the moment. If I were to pick a favorite character in this book, I would pick Reg. I like his attitude at certain points in the book; he is content and calm in almost every situation. One of these situations was the part about the horse. Most people wouldn’t say “Just a horse” and then move on; it’s just weird. The only thing I don’t like in this book is the spirit just asking for help; he should have made something big out of something big rather than making something small out of something big, if that’s understandable. Overall, my opinion of this book is good, not perfect, but good, and different. This is probably the most unique mystery I have ever read.

In conclusion, I would rate this book a 7 on a scale of ten, which is pretty good for me. This book is a great example that rules are not meant to be broken, but they are meant to be stretched and tested. I don’t know how Douglas Adams, of all people, ended up writing something like this, but I’m glad he did.





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