Set sometime in early nineteenth century Cornwall, this is a novel about Mary Yellan, a young woman who is left alone in the world when her mother dies. She must go and live with her mother's sister, Aunt Patience and her dark and dangerous husband, Joss Merlyn. They keep the Jamaica Inn on a lonely forbidding spot on the Moors - but no casual passer-by's stop there, nor any coaches. Mary soon learns there is something grim going on. Her uncle is involved in some violent and illicit trade, and there is a sinister person who is directing her uncle's secret business. It would be difficult for Mary to leave, but she won't leave without her Aunt Patience. Despite the violence from Joss, Aunt Patience has turned into a scared, fluttering, fey creature who seems unable to leave. Then there Jem Merlyn, her uncle's much younger brother and for whom Mary begins to feel a conflict of emotion. Can she trust Jem? He is her hated uncle's brother after all. Yet despite this and him being a horse-thief and a care-for-nothing she finds herself falling in love with him.
I really enjoyed this book - the first du Maurier I had read, and it has certainly made me keen to read more.