I'm a student, so I don't have nearly as much time for leisure reading as I'd like. If I manage to read an entire course book instead of just the assigned chapters, I'll review that here, too.
Professional soldier, casual murderer and all-around lout Colonel Sebastian Moran arrives in London and is extended a one of a kind offer: To join the "firm" of Professor Moriarty, the undisputed king of London's criminal underworld. His job: To kill whoever the professor tells him to kill.
The money is good, Moran gets access to the girls in the downstairs brothel, what's not to like? And if he nearly gets killed every few months on the job, that's what he lives for, isn't it? The moment when it's just him and the prey locked in deathly combat.
The book is broken up into adventures that mirror those of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, but from the point of view of the hired criminals, but doesn't stop there: the book's villains' gallery of Victorian popular culture rivals that of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Classic characters get their bow in the limelight from Tintin's Bianca Castafiore through Raffles and Bunny to Irma Vep of Les Vampires. Even Van Helsing makes an appearance - as a necrophiliac with an undead fantasy. No-one gets a free pass from Moran's caustic tongue, or Newman's determination to strip characters of their heroic glow.
There is a type of author who will downplay just about every character in the book to make his author stand-in character look cool - I'm talking about Martin Amis. Other People was ridiculous. Come on, Martin Amis. But I don't really see this being a problem in The Hound of the D'Urbervilles. Both Moran and Moriarty show up ridiculous as well as corrupt and scary. Irene Adler may be a talentless, low-class singer, but she's still the smartest person around, the unbeatable Woman (or Bitch, as the Moriarty team knows her). You can expect everyone to be tarred with the same brush.
And Sherlock Holmes? He barely registers.
I did genuinely enjoy this book, though it should come with a number of warnings. The nihilistic, violent mind of Sebastian Moran is not a nice place to stay. And while he never, to his own knowledge or by his own admission, rapes anyone, he is very rapey, and I for one found it hard to imagine him innocent of sexual violence. This is kind of a dealbreaker for me, so I can only be grateful the book never went there, in so many words. Moran is completely unlikable, and yet you do sympathize with his concern over his diminishing usefulness to Moriarty, and there is something of fantasy fulfillment in his ability to bounce back from injury. So gauge your own limits, and if you're quite all right with insulting the good name of popular characters and entering the mind of a debauched murderer to commit heinous crimes framed as boys' adventures, this might well be the book for you.
And if anything, at least for once A.J. "bats and bowls" Raffles isn't written heterosexual.