Black Forest


Young Adult - Thriller
307 Pages
Reviewed on 05/19/2020
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Joel R. Dennstedt for Readers' Favorite

“I’ve loaded plenty of guns in video games, but there you just have to walk over the bullets.” This quote from J. Scott Boyd’s young adult mystery/thriller, Black Forest, if properly attended to, will tell you everything you need to know about this perfectly tuned, finely honed, tightly plotted marvel of a book. This is young adult written for today, not some grandparent’s fond reminiscence. Jack and Cash are teenage friends living somewhat removed from city life, but in no way isolated from any of the deviltries caused by contemporary urban angst. Their small mountain town community boasts a host of party drugs, messed-up adults, hot girls, and true survival terror provided by skinheads hooked religiously on Nazi myths. Our two teens are not quite innocent, but they do have younger moments, often humorous, and when pitted against horrific skinhead targeting, Jack and Cash make truly sympathetic heroes.

Black Forest is a thrill ride from the start. J. Scott Boyd makes an excellent choice of using a prologue to set the scene, anticipate the action, and slyly provide an ongoing fulcrum from which to foresee and await some rather gruesome upcoming events. He then employs succinct, elegantly concise, even terse dialogue and narration – perfectly tuned, I might add, to the sound of youth today – to tell an immensely engaging, page-turning story of friendship, survival, strategy, and ultimate revenge. No credibility gaps here. Boyd rides reality’s razor’s edge to keep you fast on board and feeling mighty pleased with the end. Spoiler: Jack does learn how to load his gun.

Jack Magnus

Black Forest is a mystery/thriller for young adults written by J. Scott Boyd. Jack found something that convinced him he had finally found a clue to his dad’s disappearance when he was searching his dad’s study once again. He was entranced by the photo of Alex Finn, a white supremacist who had been one of his dad’s therapy patients. Finn had been dead for two years now, but his file spoke volumes to Jack. Alex had been convinced, it seemed, that they had found the Raubgold, a secret trove of Nazi bullion allegedly hidden somewhere on the grounds of the Black Forest Inn. Jack seriously wondered why anyone would think the Nazis had gone out of their way to select a small mountain town as their hideout, but the legend lingered on and on. There was now a band of white supremacists in the area who were convinced that the Raubgold was real, and their search for it had messianic overtones as far as Jack was concerned. Alex had been one of the most ardent believers. Had Jack’s dad found the gold and disappeared, or had something happened to him?

J Scott Boyd’s Black Forest follows Jack and his best friend Cash as they try to find the hidden Raubgold and evade the Skinheads who are determined to take them down. Black Forest is also a marvelous coming of age novel that kept me enthralled as the two young men work to save their own lives and ensure the neighborhood baddies get their comeuppance. Boyd’s writing style is lyrical and made his descriptions of the natural setting of the story shine, and his characters are multi-faceted and authentic. His plot combines the mystery and thriller genres, making it a fast-paced and compelling read as well as an engaging coming of age novel. Black Forest is most highly recommended.

Tiffany Ferrell

Fifteen-year-old Jack has been heading down a dark path of drinking and drugs since his father suddenly disappeared two years earlier. No note, no warning; he simply vanished. Then he discovered a case file for one of the last patients his dad was seeing at the local prison. A man named Alex Finn, a local Neo-Nazi who had been charged and convicted of killing a young black man and burning his body. What confuses Jack is that his father is black, so why would a Nazi wish to be treated by a minority? Within the case file, he finds that Finn claimed he had discovered a well-rumored Nazi headquarters where German spies would hide out in the 1940s. Along with this, the boy also claimed to have found the German gold that they hid in the Black Forest. Jack and his friend Cash use the notes in his father's file to find the location where this gold is said to be hidden. What they find is something neither of them could believe. The question for Jack is what does it have to do with his father's disappearance? Did it cost him his life?

I found Black Forest a unique young adult book. While it had the realistic struggles of drugs and drinking, it also had an adventure mystery theme in the form of finding missing Nazi gold that legend said was hidden in their town. It was a mixture of The Goonies and Skins UK, which made it a very interesting read. The characters were well-thought-out and detailed. Jack and Cash have a realness to their characters that you don’t often find in books like this. They are fifteen but are engaging in vices such as drinking and drugs which is true for lots of teenagers that age. The plot was also very fascinating to me and moved along in an upbeat fashion that kept the reader on their toes. Overall, I think that J. Scott Boyd did an excellent job making the perfect thriller mystery for young adults. I look forward to reading more of his works in the future.

Rabia Tanveer

Black Forest by J. Scott Boyd is the story of a teenage boy angry at the world for his lost father, but life is ready to teach him a lesson. Jack Larson isn’t the most pleasant boy, but he has his reasons. He was barely a teenager when his father disappeared suddenly. The police thought he left his wife and child alone, but Jack knows in his heart that his father would never do that. Angry and sad, Jack loses himself in drugs and bad habits that seem to be the norm in his little town. He loses hope of ever finding his father, but when he gets some vital information about his father’s disappearance, he knows this is his chance to find him. Armed with determination and backed by his friend Cash, Jack starts a journey to uncover secrets that are best left alone. Will Jack find his father? Or will he uncover something sinister?

Jack is a smart young man and he is very tenacious. J. Scott Boyd portrays Jack in the best way to highlight his flaws and strengths. I was immediately invested in Jack’s story and his quest to find his father. Cash and Jack have a very special bond that showed in the way they reacted to each other and supported each other. The dialogue between these two felt genuine and their development was believable and relatable. The action is paced just right, the mystery unravels at a steady pace, and the overall feel of the story changes with the change in plot. The subplots made the story and the characters more interesting. The author left little clues in the story and I was amazed at how well he hid them all. Every loose end was tied as Black Forest reached its conclusion and I was filled with a sense of satisfaction. What I loved the most was the fact that Jack didn’t have a miraculous change; he remained to true to his personality but with a mature air. I read this in a single sitting and enjoyed every second of it. This is perhaps the best young adult novel I have read so far this year. I loved it!

Viga Boland

Black Forest by J Scott Boyd intrigued me for various reasons. The first was its unexpected evolution into a suspenseful plot after several rather laid-back opening chapters. The second was the psychological insights readers get into the two teenagers, Jack and Cash, the key characters in this novel. The third is the stark contrast depicted between different social groups living in the same region. J Scott Boyd handled all three areas so skilfully that, despite its logical and satisfying conclusion, I was almost disappointed when I realized the story was finished. This pair of teens had so captivated my imagination, I couldn’t help but wonder where the future would take them.

When we first meet Jack and Cash, they spend most of their time getting high at Cash’s house and looking forward to losing their virginity to one of the pretty females in their school circle. They live in the mountainous area of the Black Forest beyond Denver and do their best to avoid the various warring gangs, including Nazi sympathizers in the vicinity. Jack has heard rumors of World War 2 Nazi treasure hidden somewhere in the Black Forest and, as curious teens will do, he convinces Cash to help him look for it. Does the treasure really exist and if so, do they find it? Once their search begins, the pace of this story accelerates at warp speed, along with injuries and even death. If you put the book down early, you’ll miss a really good read and a most pleasing ending.

J Scott Boyd’s Master's degree in clinical psychology and his ongoing therapeutic work with adults and adolescents no doubt accounts for his realistic and credible depiction of the actions and motivations of Jack, Cash, and other characters in this novel. Add to those factors his easy skill with dialogue appropriate to the various different groups in Black Forest, and you have an engaging, true to life story. Bravo! J Scott Boyd has written a stellar debut novel. Let’s hope he has more story ideas already cooking!