Ok so. Mary Yellan’s mother has died and she has to go live at Jamaica Inn with her aunt, whom she remembers as laughing and gay but who is now a shattered shell of a woman with a nervous, working mouth due to her marriage to Joss Merlyn, he of the enormous, powerful body and sinisterly deft and graceful hands. Where do you get these unnerving details, Daphne? Your mind must be full of spiders.
There’s rumors of smuggling afoot, and then rumors of murder, and then rumors of worse than murder and when authors go there I’m always hesitant because I like to be well and truly scandalized, and am often let down. Fear ye not, Joss Merlyn’s Deep Dark Secret is much shadier than stringing up the occasional fellow-smuggler.
Anyhoodle, Mary can’t leave on account of Aunt Patience, and because she accidentally falls in love with Joss’s less-villainous-but-still-pretty-rascally brother Jem. Horse-theivery shenanigans ensue. Add, for creepiness, one albino vicar, fold in several wind-swept moors (into which has already been muddled the corpse of an irrelevant Merlyn brother), bake at 350 degrees of law enforcement closing in, enjoy with palpitations.
And this may be New, Very Engaging Du Maurier (Now With More Melodrama), but it’s still The Daph. Things’ll be running along plottily and then she’ll launch these sharp, sharp lines, like ‘Once more she knew the humility of being born a woman, when the breaking down of strength and spirit was taken as natural and unquestioned.’ Oh Daphne, you have such an ax to grind underneath all your derring-do.
And I like it. I like a crunchy, critical center to my smuggle-coated plots. The latter helps the former go down easier, and the former gives the latter a bit of bite.