Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: June 1995 (Reissue)
Format: Paperback, 304 pgs
I enjoyed reading Rebecca a few years back and thought Daphne DuMaurier was a master in creating an atmospheric setting and intriguing characters in Rebecca. Though Jamaica Inn is different from the haunting classic Rebecca, I have heard it is a fine romantic tale rich in suspense and intrigue so I cracked open this book with much anticipation.
The story opens with a 23-year-old Mary Yellan travelling in a coach from Helford countryside to a forbidden, rundown inn in Launceston. The ride is an uneventful one, given the bad weather and the coach driver's remark about nobody ever make a stop at Jamaica Inn anymore but these do not deter Mary from travelling there. She is very determined to go to Aunt Patience's inn because she had promised her late mother she would do so after selling their farmhouse. There is no point for her to stay on considering her father had passed before her mother and sickness had struck and killed the livestock in the villages round Helford.
However, once she reached Jamaica Inn she soon learnt that Aunt Patience doesn't seem to be the same person she had corresponded years ago. Gone is her cheerful, optimistic demeanour and the present Aunt Patience is more like a squeamish old lady who is afraid of her big, boisterous landlord husband who only loves drinking and throwing abusive remarks. As the days pass by Mary soon realises why people are afraid of Jamaica Inn and most of all, its notorious landlord. But that is not the worst of all, for Mary will soon find herself ensnared in the villainous schemes being hatched within Jamaica Inn and she needs to find someone she could trust to share what she has learnt within Jamaica Inn. Dare she trust the landlord's younger brother, a horse stealer, who claims he has no business with his elder brother except their blood ties or the vicar of Altarnun?
Honestly speaking, Jamaica Inn isn't what I expected initially but that didn't take away my reading pleasure. The blurb didn't mention too much of what this story is about so it definitely has a mystery aura surrounding it. The setting is well described and the characters are well developed though it takes readers some time to see the mystery unveils. However, that anticipation is worth waiting because I was taken aback towards the end. That said, this is not really a whodunit story but more like a behavioural study of characters and the things some people would do under certain circumstances. Mary Yellan is an interesting heroine; she is brave for a woman living in older times and she is not afraid to speak up what she thinks is right or wrong. She has a soft spot for Aunt Patience and this is one reason I felt connected to her. I couldn't say too much about other characters for fear of spoilers but let's just say they are well described and are intrigued in their own way.
Although I felt this book is not on par with Rebecca, it was still a good read in my opinion.