“Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” and “The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul” by Douglas Adams

Back in the 80’s, I was a fan of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy (you know, the one with four books in it?) and eagerly snapped up Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, his follow-up novel, which I enjoyed and has sat on many shelves in many domiciles over the past twenty three years. I was put reminded of Dirk when I recently re-read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, and my husband said, “Isn’t the plot of that awfully similar to that [of the Dirk Gently sequel], The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul?” And thus two more books leaped onto my to read list. I thought to myself, no big deal, they’ll be fast, run reads, I’ll enjoy them and move on.

But I didn’t enjoy them a great deal. I enjoyed them some. I laughed sometimes. But not nearly as much as I remember doing the first time I read these. And both finished up in a whirl of action just past the climax really, with no denouement and incomplete story lines.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency has chapters that alternate between a man who is murdered, another who gets blamed for it, an Electric Monk whose job is to believe things, the sister of the murdered man, and a strange, possessive entity. This is in addition to a sofa stuck in a stairway. Dirk enters the picture to figure out what’s going on, and he does, kind of, eventually. See? It sounds funny. And it was, rather. But it took me several days to work through it, and it was fine, good perhaps, but I can’t grant it much more than that.

The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul
is about Norse gods roaming the earth among us. This story alternates among Kate, who gets injured when the Norway desk at the airport blows up because the large, not-too-bright man (guess who!) loses his temper; Dirk, who’s locked in a struggle with his housekeeper over who will open the refrigerator first; and Mr. Odwin, an old man who’s enjoying a pretty cushy lifestyle at a luxe retirement home. Again, it’s funny. Again, Dirk kinda sorta figures out what’s going on, but not before some poor schlub loses his head (literally) and the ending ties up too quickly and not entirely satisfactorily. I am glad I read it, though, as Mr. Gaiman owes more than a little of the premise of American Gods to this.

(Noted by a writer on Tor, here by Nicholas Whyte, and here at The Labyrinth Library.

In all, the Dirk Gently books and I have grown apart. Is it me? Did the suck fairy get into them? Don’t know. But I can’t heartily recommend them.

One Response to ““Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” and “The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul” by Douglas Adams”

  1. V Says:

    It has been a while since I read them, and I wonder what I would think of “Tea Time” now that I’ve read “American Gods.” But “Dirk Gently” really disappointed me, because Adams ripped himself off by recycling some of the story from his lost “Shada” episode in the Tom Baker era of “Doctor Who,” an episode that never made the air because of a BBC strike. I had thought he was a more creative writer than that. As much as loved the Hitchhiker series, I found it heartbreaking.