This review is based on the BBC radio drama, not the book.
The story has an almost
surrealistic way to it. It's not merely Douglas Adams' sometimes wacky
satirism. This is a mystery story, and I guess mystery stories do need to
be somewhat muddled to keep the reader guessing as long as possible.
What you get is:
A "holistic" detective, who has a reputation as a con man.
An electronic monk which was
designed to believe whatever people needed it to believe so the people don't
have to spend their time believing it themselves. The monk has somehow
appeared (with his horse) in England from some futuristic place - after he had
a traumatic overloading of conflicting beliefs.
The head of a computer company, Gerald, is killed.
One of his employees, Richard, is considered the suspect.
Richard is dating Gerald's sister, Susan.
Susan has a friend Michael
who is angry at Gerald for taking over his magazine business and eliminating
Michael as editor. Michael is seeing a therapist about serious issues
with his mother, as well as some bizarre ideas including seeing an electronic
monk on a horse...
Richard finds himself
employing his old college friend Dirk Gently to help prove his innocence.
Richard should have an alibi. The night of the murder he was at the
annual Cambridge dinner honoring Coleridge. Richard was there with an old
The professor holds the
college's Chair Of Chronology - a post established by the unbalanced King
George III. The professor entertains a little girl with a conjuring trick
that seemingly can't be done.
When Richard goes to the
professor's apartment the next day, the professor acts oddly and responds with
concern to a noise in the other room. But it turns out only to be a horse
in the bathroom...
Some people also seem to be seeing ghosts…
Meanwhile, there are bits and
pieces of humor about the detective's secretary complaining about not being
paid, and about the detective's other clients - who all seem to be elderly
women looking for lost cats...
This is certainly not for
when you want "serious SF", but that should apply to anything by
Douglas Adams. There are science fiction and speculative fiction elements
to the story, but on the whole it's more like a detective story satire mixed
with Adams' usual social commentary humor.