Mary Yellan is a young woman who finds herself alone in the world when her mother dies. She decides to seek out her Aunt Patience, who lives not far away at Jamaica Inn. But as Mary travels to her new home, the coachman warns her that it’s not a respectable place and that it could be dangerous for a young woman like her. Nonetheless, Mary continues her journey, but she soon finds that the coachman was right. Her uncle, Joss Merlyn, is a brutish drunkard who completely dominates Aunt Patience with violence. Joss is also involved in some extremely unsavory business activities, which Mary does her best to ignore for her aunt’s sake. But eventually, Joss and his sinister confederates perpetrate an outrage that is too shocking to ignore, and Mary must decide whom she can trust to ask for help.
I’ve read several books by Daphne Du Maurier, and this is the first one that I really didn’t like. Honestly, my overall reaction was simply meh. The prose is too flowery, the plot is too melodramatic, and the whole thing is entirely too drawn-out and predictable. I knew immediately what Joss Merlyn’s mysterious business was, I knew whom Mary would end up with, and I knew who the bad guy was — all before the book was half over. In such a slow-paced book whose main entertainment value is the suspense, this much predictability just made the whole thing dull, in my opinion. So all in all, I wasn’t a fan. It’s one of Du Maurier’s earlier works, though, so presumably her writing style matured over the years. I would definitely recommend Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel or Frenchman’s Creek instead!