The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul is a 1988 humorous fantasy detective novel by Douglas Adams. It is the second book by Adams featuring private detective Dirk Gently, the first being Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. A third, unfinished book was written, named The Salmon of Doubt.

The title is a phrase which appeared in Adams' novel Life, the Universe and Everything to describe the wretched boredom of immortal being Wowbagger, the Infinitely Prolonged, and is a play on the theological treatise Dark Night of the Soul, by Saint John of the Cross.

A BBC radio adaptation, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, was broadcast in October 2008. A BBC America television series based on the events of the Dirk Gently series was broadcast in 2016.

Plot summary

Dirk Gently, who calls himself a "holistic detective", has happened upon what he thinks is a rather comfortable situation. A wealthy man in the record industry has retained him, spinning a story about being stalked by a seven-foot-tall, green-eyed, scythe-wielding monster.

Dirk pretends to understand the man's ravings involving potatoes and a contract signed in blood coming due; when in reality, Dirk is musing about what he might do if he actually receives payment for his "services" - such as getting rid of his refrigerator, which is so filthy inside that it has become the centrepiece of a showdown between himself and his cleaning woman.

The seriousness of his client's claims becomes clear when Dirk arrives several hours late for an appointment to find a swarm of police around his client's estate. The aforementioned client is found in a sealed and heavily barricaded room, his head neatly removed several feet from his body and rotating on a turntable. While at his recently deceased client’s house, he discovers that his client had a son. However, after disconnecting the television set the boy had been watching, the boy promptly breaks Dirk’s nose.

Nearly incapacitated by guilt, Dirk resolves to take his now-late client's wild claims seriously. During his investigation, Gently encounters exploding airport check-in counters, the gods of Norse mythology, insulting horoscopes, a sinister nursing home, a rhino phagic eagle, an I Ching calculator (to which everything calculated above the value of 4 is apparently 'a suffusion of yellow'), an omnipotent being who gives his powers to a lawyer and an advertising executive in exchange for clean linen, and an attractive American woman who gets angry when she can't get pizza delivered in London.

References to Hitchhiker's


In the second book, Thor is an important character, and events include Asgard and the norse gods. Thor also appeared in the Hitchhiker's book Life, the Universe and Everything.

BBC Radio series

The Sirius Cybernetics Corporation exists in both this radio series and the Hitchhiker's series, having manufactured Marvin and other Genuine People Personalities in the Hitchhiker's books, and existing as an Earth-based corporation featured in Episode 1 of Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. Thor also appears as a pivotal character in this radio adaption, as he did in the book.

BBC America television series

The 2016 BBC America adaption (later released on Netflix) included several references to Hitchhiker's.

In the first series, the number 42 shows up a few times, such as on the wall of a death maze which Dirk Gently and his assistant/friend Todd Brotzman encounter. There are also said to be 42 members of an organisation called Darkwing. In a couple of episodes a character says 'possible' then corrects it with 'probable', which is likely a reference to probability and the Infinite Improbability Drive.

In the first episode Dirk says that “there was a bit about a sofa, a thing with Thor…”, which is a reference to events that occurred in the Hitchhiker's novel Life, the Universe and Everything, and also a reference to the Dirk Gently books, as in the first book there is an incident with a sofa stuck in a wall, and in the second Thor is a character who appears. As with the Dirk Gently books, Thor is mentioned several times in this TV series.

The first series involves the movement of souls belonging to both animals and people, resulting, at one point, with people being inside the bodies of mice. This is a reference to Frankie and Benjy mouse, who were actually pan-dimensional beings. It is also mentioned that the projects of Blackwing have been loose for fifteen, almost sixteen, years, which is about the same amount of time that Ford Prefect was stranded on Earth.

In the second series, one of the main characters, Farah, wears a jacket with a 42 patch on the arm, and one of the characters had a dog is named Agrajag. Dirk Gently is at one point called "a hoopy frood", a term used repeatedly in the Hitchhiker's series (mainly by, or in reference to, Ford Prefect) and in that same episode, before jumping into a potentially unstable portal, says to himself "don't panic!", which is written on the cover of the Guide.

Both series feature a group of characters called The Rowdy 3, which actually involves four members and becomes five members. Many fans think this is a reference to Adams' books being a trilogy in five parts, originally being planned to be three books but ending up as five. In the final episode of the second series, The Rowdy 3 becomes six members with an added member from another universe, possibly a reference to the final book in the Hitchhiker's series, written by a different author than Adams, Eoin Colfer. It could also be in reference to "The Salmon of Doubt", the unfinished third Dirk Gently novel that Adams suggested felt to be more of a Hitchhiker's book.  

Behind the scenes

  • Dirk Maggs, who worked on both the Hitchhiker's and Dirk Gently radio series as a director considered the two part of the same Universe.
  • Maggs said, in an interview about the second Dirk Gently radio series: “There is definitely Hitchhiker’s/crossover ... In this second series there is one particular idea from Douglas’s notes for the third [unfinished] Dirk Gently book which at one point he thought might be a Hitchhiker’s book. It’s a very simple idea that puts one of the Hitchhiker’s characters in the same universe as Dirk Gently in a way that I thought had enormous potential. In this series we find that the characters in both universes are inhabiting the same world, and I think where we’re going with this is something that actually resolves later on in Hitchhiker’s. It’s turning into a bit of a prequel!”
  • Peter Davison and Stephen Moore were involved in both The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy adaptions, and the radio adaption of The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.

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