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Book review: History, treasure mysteries and LDS missions meet in 'The Land of Look Behind'

"THE LAND OF LOOK BEHIND," by Aaron Blaylock, Bonneville Books, $18.99, 320 pages (f)

Not to be confused with the 1982 Jamaican documentary by Alan Greenberg, yet with a nod to Bob Marley in the opening line of the book, Aaron Blaylock’s newest historical fiction and modern-day adventure novel is sure to bring a smile to your face, mon.

Blaylock, a returned missionary who served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Jamaica, uses his experiences with places and people to add a realistic dimension to the story.

“The Land of Look Behind” is a fine piece of historical fiction replete with quests, danger, war, intrigue, treasure and treachery. The book shifts between Jamaica's colonialism history and democratic present. The story features two main characters. First, readers are introduced to Lt. Benjamin Jarvis, an English officer during the turn of the 17th century when England and Spain were duking it out over the island nation. Jarvis finds himself dealing with more than his original mission.

Yet this story is not simply about Jarvis’ exploits. His work, trials and experiences are recorded in a journal that affects LDS returned missionary Gideon Goodwin. Goodwin has returned home to Arizona after serving a Mormon mission in Jamaica. Like many, he struggles to adjust to post-mission life. While on his mission, he came into possession of Jarvis’ journal. His love for Jamaica and the journal’s secrets draw him and his roommate Todd Colbeck back to Jamaica for an experience that turns into more than they bargained on discovering. The mysteries of both eras resolve in a surprising, perhaps even mystical, twist.

Blaylock has done his history homework to maintain accuracy. Throughout the novel, he also works in subtle and not-so-subtle pop culture references from Bob Marley lyrics, 1980s cartoons, No Doubt lyrics and even the long gone but beloved Electric Ballroom, a Phoenix concert hall staple.

There are some generally described 18th-century war scenes along with some modern skirmishes. There is no swearing or sexual content.

“Land of Look Behind” is a fun, intriguing and entertaining summer read.

Emily Howsley is enjoying her adventures in the wild blue yonder of Texas. She enjoys reading, writing, photography and dreaming.