Book Review – The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams
In this, the second and final completed Dirk Gently novel, the holistic detective has finally found a client capable of paying him in a manner to which he would like to become accustomed. Unfortunately, it’s a short-term arrangement as the client dies before we meet him around page 30. Dirk feels obligated to investigate, well, maybe not exactly obligated, but he is curious and ends up being thrown into a twisted interaction between gods, an innocent bystander, and a not so innocent entertainment lawyer.
Thor, the Norse god of thunder (and other things) is peeved. The gods are losing power and he thinks it’s because his father, Odin, has sold his soul (and all is powers) for a chance to be in a TV commercial and then to retire in a nice, quite room with fresh linen. Thor is trying to get back to Norway to confront him but has trouble at the airport due to lack of a ticket and a lack of money with which to buy one. The aforementioned innocent bystander, one Kate Schechter, stuck in line behind him, buys his ticket, for which he is grateful. He is still denied a seat because he also lacks a passport. Understandably, he is frustrated. His rage explodes, literally, and the ticket counter shoots through the roof in a burst of flame and the girl working at it is transformed into a Coke machine. This may have been accidental.
When Kate awakens in a hospital, she recognizes the unconscious man in the next room as the one who lacked a passport. She believes he is dead. A nurse assures her he’s not, but when she finds him gone shortly thereafter, she wonders where he went. This brings her to a sanitarium known as Woodshead, where Odin is enjoying a calm retirement.
Dirk Gently’s investigation of his former client’s untimely and messy death also leads him to Woodshead, and it is not far from there where Kate and Dirk meet. He tells her she’s in danger.
From here, the book almost seems to rush to the conclusion and I do wish it did not. My hard cover, book club edition is only 211 pages, and it is so enjoyable, I would have wished for it to be twice that length. There is enough untold story in the gaps to justify it. Kate and Dirk pretty much act separately, each pursuing their own thread of the story. I would have liked to see more interaction between them. There isn’t much about the lawyer and I would have liked to dislike him more. I never did quite figure out what all the eagles were about, but I’m not really up on Norse mythology so I may have missed out because of that. Also, I was unclear about what brought about the creation of the new and powerful god of guilt (from Dirk’s neglected refrigerator). Still, the central plot is clear and the conclusion makes sense, after a fashion.
The Dirk Gently stories had the makings of a great series and it is sad that Douglas Adams did not have a chance to continue it. But, the two that were finished are fun, and I do recommend them.