The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

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. The title is a phrase that 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.

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
Long dark tea time of soul UK.jpg
The front cover of the UK first hardcover edition of The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.
AuthorDouglas Adams
CountryUnited Kingdom
SeriesDirk Gently
GenreComedy, science fiction
PublisherWilliam Heinemann
Publication date
10 October 1988
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback) & Audio Book (Cassette, CD)
Pages256 (hardcover), 320 (paperback)
ISBN0-434-00921-0 (hardcover edition) & ISBN 0-671-74251-5 (US paperback edition)
Preceded byDirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency 
Followed byThe Salmon of Doubt 

The novel is named for that time on a Sunday, after afternoon but before evening, as the week-end had finished but the week had not yet begun, that occurred to Adams as a listless limbo of the working man:

In the end, it was the Sunday afternoons he couldn't cope with, and that terrible listlessness which starts to set in at about 2:55, when you know that you've had all the baths you can usefully have that day, that however hard you stare at any given paragraph in the papers you will never actually read it, or use the revolutionary new pruning technique it describes, and that as you stare at the clock the hands will move relentlessly on to four o'clock, and you will enter the long dark teatime of the soul.[1]

Plot summaryEdit

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 show-down 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 turn-table. While at his recently deceased client's house, he discovers that his client had a son. However, after Dirk disconnects 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 (particularly Odin and Thor), 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'), a god who gives his powers to a lawyer and an advertising executive in exchange for clean linen, and Kate Schechter, an American woman who gets angry when she can't get pizza delivered in London.


A BBC radio adaptation, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, starring Harry Enfield, Peter Davison, John Fortune[2] and Stephen Moore was broadcast on October 2008.[3]

Dirk Gently (2010, 2012) starred Stephen Mangan in the title role in a pilot broadcast on BBC 4 in 2010 and a three episode series broadcast in 2012.


  1. ^ Adams, Douglas (1982). Life, the Universe and Everything. UK: Pan Books.
  2. ^ "Above The Title – The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul". Archived from the original on 9 October 2008. Retrieved 23 September 2008.
  3. ^ "BBC – Press Office – Network Radio Programme Information Week 40 Thursday 2 October 2008". Archived from the original on 12 November 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2008.
Preceded by: Series: Followed by:
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency Dirk Gently series The Salmon of Doubt