Should You Read Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams?

The cover of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, showing a shining door plate against the background of a dark landscape

“This time there would be no witnesses.

“This time there was just the dead earth, a rumble of thunder, and the onset of that interminable light drizzle from the northeast by which so many of the world’s most momentous events seem to be accompanied.”

– Opening of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency tells the tale of an Electric Monk, an old college professor who’s apparently paid to do nothing, a computer programmer whose software makes music out of accounting figures, his overbearing and eccentric boss, his sensible but nearly fed-up girlfriend, and, of course, a private detective who swears that because of the fundamental interconnectedness of everything, it’s perfectly reasonable to attempt to charge people for trips to Bermuda in search of their lost cats. When the eccentric boss is unexpectedly gunned down and the programmer seems to be the police’s top suspect, Dirk takes his new client on a wild adventure to clear his name, discover the true culprit, and maybe even save the world. Unlike Sherlock Holmes, Dirk Gently does not eliminate the impossible, and in this case he might just be onto something.

Douglas Adams is an author well known for his humorous and light-hearted writing style, and this book was no exception. Although he’s better known for his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books, I found the two Dirk Gently books (this one and the sequel The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul) to be easier to enjoy, as I personally had a difficult time getting over the fact that The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy opens with the destruction of Earth. Don’t get me wrong, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy still got a few good laughs out of me, but the Dirk Gently books are more my cup of tea.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency starts out very slowly and requires a good deal of patience and concentration before it really starts to ramp up, in my opinion, but I found that when I did give it that focus I was very much rewarded. In fact, this is the sort of book where the astute reader can pick up on vital clues and get the satisfaction of seeing all the pieces fall in place by the ending. It rewards the reader who goes slowly and enjoys every little humor-laced paragraph along the way.

And for me, one of the main attractions is that it did make me smile throughout rather than getting dragged down into sadness while the characters faced their struggles. Certainly, it’s important to read books on serious topics, just as it’s important to stay aware of current events even when they’re frightening or tragic, but there’s also such a thing as too much. Sometimes all you want is to balance it all out with a book that just makes you feel good. This is that kind of book. I recommend it to anyone else who’s looking for the same.