Huge spoilers ahead.
(Photo courtesy Jamaica Inn http://www.jamaicainn.co.uk/)
If you want a mood piece with fabulous descriptions of the harsh isolation of Bodmin Moor, this is it. If you want a portrait of the worst of nineteenth century smuggling and wrecking, this is it. If you want a coherent story with well-developed characters, this is not it.
For seventeen years, Mary Yellan and her widowed mother have maintained a small farm near Helford, at the southern end of Cornwall. To comply with her dying mother's wish, Mary sells the farm and all her belongings and moves to Jamaica Inn on windswept Bodmin Moor, where her Aunt Patience lives with her husband, Joss Merlyn, the landlord of the inn. Mary soon discovers her uncle-by-marriage is deeply involved in a huge smuggling operation.
Wow! Great potential! But . . . .
Through the reading, I felt du Maurier really didn't care about her characters, especially Mary Yellan. They were props, providing a little bit of action so she could move them around on the stage of Bodmin Moor and describe it. Mary had no spine, and no sense, and when she impulsively took off at the end, I again got that impression of someone just writing her off the scene.
Two stars for the descriptive writing, but that's stretching it.