When Mary Yellan’s mother is dying, she makes Mary promise to go live with her Aunt Patience in Bodmin. However, Aunt Patience’s reply to her letter after her mother’s death tells her that she no longer lives in Bodmin. Her uncle is the landlord of Jamaica Inn out on the moors.
When Mary tells the coach driver her destination, he advises her to stay in Bodmin. Jamaica Inn is a place of ill repute. Mary feels, though, that she must keep her promise to her mother.
She finds Jamaica Inn a ramshackle, brooding inn with no customers. Patience, her mother’s sister, has changed from a vivacious, pretty woman to a terrified drudge. Her uncle, Joss Merlyn, is an overbearing bully with signs of being a habitual drunk.
Days after arriving at the inn, Mary must help serve the most disreputable bunch of men she has ever seen. Later, Joss advises her to stay in her room with her covers over her head. But she looks out the window and sees evidence of smuggling.
But the secrets of Jamaica Inn go far beyond smuggling. Mary looks for a way to safely remove herself and her aunt. In the meantime, she meets and is attracted to Joss’s younger brother, Jem.
It’s been many years since I read this novel, which I reread for the 1936 Club. I found it to be a truly exciting thriller.