Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

From Academic Kids

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency is a novel by Douglas Adams. It is described on its jacket as a "detective-ghost-horror-who dunnit-time travel-romantic-musical-comedy-epic".


  • Dirk Gently, the perpetually broke operator of the title detective agency that operates based on the "fundamental interconnectedness of all things." He specializes in missing cats and messy divorces. Dirk created rumors about clairvoyant abilities by vigorously denying that he had any.
  • Richard MacDuff, a young software engineer working for WayForward Technologies II, owned by Gordon Way. His Anthem software, which converts corporate accounts into music, was extremely popular. A sofa is irreversibly stuck on the staircase to his apartment; according to his simulations, there was no way for it to get there in the first place. (This is probably based on Douglas Adam's life in St John's College, Cambridge University. Furniture was placed in the rooms overlooking the river in Third Court when the staircases were missing due to refurbishment. When the staircases were returned it was discovered that the sofas could no longer be removed from the rooms, and the sofas remained in those rooms for several decades.)
  • Reg (Professor Urban Chronotis, the Regius Professor of Chronology), Richard's old college tutor, a fellow of St. Cedd's College, Cambridge with no apparent duties, who is "on the older side of completely indeterminate". He has a predisposition for childish conjuring tricks and an extremely bad memory.
  • Gordon Way, the owner of WayForward, who is pressuring Richard to complete his behind-schedule software project.
  • Susan Way, sister of Gordon Way and professional cellist, and the "specific girl that Richard is not married to".
  • A malfunctioning Electric Monk from a planet very far from the Earth. "The Electric Monk was a labour-saving device, like a dishwasher or a video recorder. ... Electric Monks believed things for you, thus saving you from what was becoming an increasingly onerous task." The Monk was discarded by its owners due to a series of malfunctions that cause it to fervently believe ridiculously improbable things.
  • Michael Wenton-Weakes, child of wealthy parents, whose mother sold his ill-managed magazine, Fathom, to Gordon Way after his father's death. The magazine was the one thing most important to him, and he is determined to get it back.
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge, writer and laudanum user. He appears only briefly in the story in person, but figures prominently into the plot nonetheless. For the sake of the novel, he is made to have attended St. Cedd's College. He said that he transcribed the poem "Kubla Khan" from a dream, but was interrupted (http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/stc/Coleridge/poems/notes.html#KublaKhan) before being able to complete the second half of the poem - which contains instructions on destroying life (or, at any rate, terrestrial animal life) on Earth as we know it. According to this book, it was Dirk Gently who was the mysterious Man from Porlock.


Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency has been compared to Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid because Dirk Gently is actually based on the "fundamental interconnectedness of all things"—which is virtually the same thing as the chaos theory. Many details appear superfluous, but are actually integral to the plot. Additional references are also made to quantum mechanics, possibly linking up with the non-locality associated with phenomena such as the EPR paradox.

The entirety of the plot of the book is closely tied to Coleridge's Kubla Khan (and the Rime of the Ancient Mariner to a lesser extent), in a way that is obscure until the end of the novel.

The story reuses elements from two Doctor Who episodes written by Adams, City of Death and Shada, the latter of which was never aired due to a production strike terminating its filming.

In 2005, a couple of Douglas Adams fans decided to make their own fan radio series, based on the Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. (See the Dirk Gently Fan Radio Series Homepage (http://www.whis-kers.org/dirkgently).)

See also:

Series: Followed by:
Dirk Gently series The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul

fr:Un cheval dans la salle de bains it:Dirk Gently investigatore olistico


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