Publication Date: June 1, 1991
In Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently is a holistic detective who believes that everything is connected. He sets out to help a man named Richard’s whose girlfriend’s father has been murdered and is convinced that the crime must be solved to clear his own name. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is the first book in the Dirk Gently series. Douglas Adams planned his Dirk Gently series as a trilogy but passed away before the final book, Salmon of Doubt was released (it was released after his passing as an unfinished work). Where The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a romp of self-discovery through the Universe, the Dirk Gently series is one surreal character placed in a world that is overtly planted in the twenty-first-century reality. Dirk is a detective with a lot of balls to juggle, many of which are pulled out of thin air, but readers that stick with the manic character will soon realize that his insanity the sort of brilliance one would expect from his creator.
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is an exceptionally difficult book to review as it is, true to Adams, everywhere in its comedic brilliance. Gordon Way, the central character who early on in the story becomes a ghost, remains a central character and readers get flashes of the story from his perspective. The story is less a “whodunit” than a “how they got there and everyone they met along the way.” Unlike Adams’ previous work, the story is more hilariously absurd than outright funny. Dirk Gently is a character who delights in everything and, as such, an annoyance to his subject in a more overt way than Ford is to Arthur.
Despite the surreal nature of the piece, the brilliance that is Douglas Adams shines through in its creativity. There are a lot of moving pieces in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency but Adams brings them together brilliantly. Adams takes pieces from his experience to make a very real world for Dirk to run through. He is an infuriating delight to read and one of the last people you’d want to meet in a dark alley. You can fight violence but you can’t fight the outlandish crazy that is Dirk. He quickly becomes Richard’s worst nightmare but also someone that its hard not to buy into. Where Adams’ better-known work, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is Dali in nature, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is Cheval.
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is a subtle masterpiece. If you’re a person that likes a little crazy in your story, this is one not to be missed. If, like many Adams fans, you didn’t know this series existed until the recent Netflix series, be sure to give it a read before binging. They’re very different but the spirit is the same.
Check out our review of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency Season 1 (2017).
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