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When No One Is Watching

When No One Is Watching

A Thriller

eBook - 2020
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"I was knocked over by the momentum of an intense psychological thriller that doesn't let go until the final page. This is a terrific read." – Alafair Burke, New York Times bestselling author

*Marie Claire's September Book Club Pick*

Rear Window meets Get Out in this gripping thriller from a critically acclaimed and New York Times Notable author, in which the gentrification of a Brooklyn neighborhood takes on a sinister new meaning...

Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she's known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community's past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block—her neighbor Theo.

But Sydney and Theo's deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised.

When does coincidence become conspiracy? Where do people go when gentrification pushes them out? Can Sydney and Theo trust each other—or themselves—long enough to find out before they too disappear?

Featured in Parade, Essence, Bustle, Popsugar, Elle, Shondaland, Marie Claire, Buzzfeed, Entertainment Weekly, Good Housekeeping, Brit + Co, Real Simple, Lit Hub, Crime Reads, Blavity, Ms. Magazine, Hello Giggles, The New York Times, Town & Country, Newsweek, New York Post, Refinery29, Woman's World, Washington Post, the Skimm, Book Riot, Bookish, Huffington Post, and more!

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks


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Library Reads Top 10 November 2020

Nothing says “must read” quite like a Librarian’s stamp of approval! Every month releases the top picks for the month, as voted on by Librarians across the country. Subscribe to Tacoma Library’s e-Newsletter service and get the Library Reads picks and more delivered straight to your inbox. Check out the LibraryReads’ picks for September 2020: When No One Is Watching Battle Grou... (more)

From the critics

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JCLBrittanyC Apr 28, 2021

Let me tell you, this book got crazy. In this story, we follow Sydney Green who was born and raised in the Gifford Place neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. Recently, she has started to notice things quickly changing in the neighborhood. These changes occur shortly after an abandoned lot is sold to a new medical company. This book centers around gentrification and race issues, but with a sinister (Get Out-like) twist. I will say it is advertised as a thriller, but there is a definite slow build to this one. You won’t be able to put it down when you get the last 100 pages though, so get ready for the ride.

I think recently we have seen an increase in books that contain current events or social issues, and I think the themes of this book could offer insight to many on the Black Lives Matter movement. Overall though, Alyssa Cole does an excellent job of balancing current content with almost (or so I hope) sci-fi themes. If you are looking for something that starts light and mysterious, but becomes dark and twisty, definitely reach for this one!

Apr 08, 2021

I really enjoyed the premise of this book - as a white woman, I will admit I'd never truly understood the extent of gentrification's horrific effects on existing communities, and felt that this book offered a really compelling story centered around this issue.

However, I felt like the pacing of the novel was off. The first 3/4 is much more of a social commentary than a thriller - which again, Cole wrote beautifully.

It seemed like in the last 1/4 of the book, though, she remembered that she was supposed to be writing a thriller and tried to pack in all that content at once. I don't want to spoil the book for anyone, so I'll stay vague with my comments, but the book suddenly veered from a believable and sobering account of systemic racism to a wild conspiracy that didn't really make a lot of sense. She threw in a ton of classic thriller tropes (e.g. totally opposite main characters fall in love, main character thinks other main character is secretly working against them, etc.) in a very short amount of time, which didn't really do much to develop the story since they were all introduced and resolved within a couple pages.

Additionally, the book clearly draws from Rear Window and Get Out (I know it says this on the back cover so this isn't exactly a revelation), which is compelling, but maybe not developed as well as it could have been? It seemed a bit like Cole picked and chose what she wanted to include from each existing story without doing anything new with them.

Overall, I'd recommend reading this, but more for the social commentary than the thriller aspect. Social commentary 10/10, thriller portion 3/10.

Mar 29, 2021

The beginning of the book did not capture my interest as I saw no plot coming that indicated to me it would be a thriller. Alternating chapters by lead characters and snippets of social media responses were further indicators I didn't want to read this book to its end.

VaughanPLTiziana Mar 28, 2021

A thrilling and engaging read that I couldn’t put down. This book is a mix of genres blended together (mystery, suspense, history, and even some romance) that provide a powerful message on social justice and gentrification. This timely novel focuses on important issues such as racism, discrimination, class issues, and the corruption that exists within the government, police, and media.

"When No One is Watching" is about a mysterious company that moves into a Brooklyn neighbourhood with some of its new residents planning a “rejuvenation”. With corporations and condos seemingly taking over, longtime residents are being pressured to sell their homes. The narrative alternates between the two main characters. Sydney Green, a black woman who grew up in this town, is literally fighting to hold onto her mother’s house in the neighbourhood. Her anger at the injustice of what is happening to her neighbourhood and friends emanates off the pages and attracts the attention of Theo, a white man with a secretive past who is new to town. The two team up to put together a tour of the neighbourhood that encompasses its African roots and a past that is on the verge of disappearing. As they begin researching and investigating, there are suddenly unexplained disappearances.

"People bury the parts of history they don't like, pave it over like African cemeteries beneath Manhattan skyscrapers. Nothing stays buried in this city, though."

“They can break, but they can't erase. They can build but they can't bury us.”

Mar 27, 2021

For most of the book, WHEN NOONE IS WATCHING, is an interesting social commentary on gentrification of a mostly black, urban, Brooklyn neighborhood. A high tech pharmaceutical company is moving in and nearby brownstone prices are skyrocketing. Wealthy white families are displacing long term neighbors, one brownstone at a time.

The two main characters are a white man, new to the neighborhood and a young black woman who grew up there. They become reluctant friends, in the course of working on a shared project. They are becoming increasingly alarmed by the sell off in the neighborhood and some unexplained disappearances. They start investigating on their own and ...SUDDENLY ....

IT BECOMES AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT BOOK!!!! The protagonists are now the not too intelligent main characters in an outlandish horror story, complete with mad scientists and far flung conspiracies, Nazi inspired doctors, etc...

The flop came near the end, where all rationale left the book and ended what had been an enjoyable reading experience.

This book changes from social commentary to unbelievable horror schlock in the turn of a page.

JCLMeganK Mar 21, 2021

This thriller focuses on gentrification and what that means for the inhabitants of the neighborhood. The story is told from the perspective of a Black woman who grew up in the neighborhood, and a White man who moved into one of the newly renovated houses with his girlfriend. This book is horrifying because it's very real in the way companies gentrify neighborhoods, with the predatory banks and real estate companies. I loved the characters, though I would have liked to see a bit more of a conclusion to the story as far as what happens with Sydney and Theo.

Mar 15, 2021

An aging Brooklyn brownstone neighborhood provides the perfect setting and mood for the much-touted horror thriller WHEN NO ONE IS WATCHING. Kudos to author Alyssa Cole for her well-intentioned and original approach to teaching history and exploring important themes of racism, drugs, gentrification, white privilege, and suppression with this story. Cole writes dialogue that seems authentic and crisp. I especially liked the exploration of "community", although because the supporting characters are so thinly developed, it was hard to connect with them. The author does a masterful job slowly building the suspense, paranoia, and tension over the first 2/3s of the book. Unfortunately, the story derails in the final third. The ending is so rushed, bizarre, cartoonish, and over the top that it detracts from many of the important points previously raised in the book. And I must confess that by then, I didn’t care what happened to either of the main characters. WHEN NO ONE IS WATCHING has been compared to the movies, “Get Out” and “Rear Window,” and I’d add the HBO series “Lovecraft Country.” Perhaps it would’ve worked better for me had it been a graphic novel or film. WARNING: This book contains strong language, adult situations, and scenes of violence.

Mar 12, 2021

When No One Is Watching. This is not so much a thriller, than a recitation of the standard operating procedure for the cesspool that is real estate. Let say you're a corporate freeloader looking for no cost financing. Well, check with the state's governor (or province's premier) about being allocated taxpayer funds at no charge, with tax abatement from the get go. Want some particular acreage , but a farm, wetland, or treed landscape are in the way? Well, it'll be expropriated for you under some expedient guise. Visions of erecting a condo tower, but a community center/park occupies the site? Not a problem, the mayors office will point out the decrepit state of the existing structures and issue notices of condemnation. City councillors at your beck and call 24/7 for rezoning anything. It's all about campaign funds for the vote grubbing politicians. Backhanders 'R Us. Land rapists are the sugar daddies of municipal politicos. But admitedly, in my experience, these parasites are equal opportunity, affirmative action, non-discrimanatory where confiscation of assets are concerned. Race (skin color) will not impede evisceration of your net worth.

JessicaGma Feb 23, 2021

It's a different sort of thriller from Alyssa Cole and addresses a lot about race relations and gentrification in neighbourhoods. It felt a lot like an X Files episode where the resolution is both weird but also creepy/unsettling. Also, how far away is this from the reality we live every day? Definitely pick this up to read.

Feb 19, 2021

The terrors of racism and gentrification are brought to new heights in this Alyssa Cole thriller. While at times one might find the story incredulous, the author truly walks a fine line of believability, by building upon instances of past historical atrocities and reinforced by the headlines of today, in creating a lived in story. The plot and prose are compelling, and the story moved along at a perfect pace. In the end I was left feeling a bit wrung out - as if I’d read a horror novel – and, moreover, saddened by the fact that this isn’t just some outlandish supernatural tale, but rather a grounded look at what has been and what could easily be.

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Mar 15, 2021

“They can break, but they can’t erase,” Gracie says. “They can build, but they can’t bury us.” - p. 346

Oct 16, 2020

“Sydney.” Theo is grinning as he calls my attention back to him, though his eyes are somber. “I need you to channel the confidence of a mediocre white man. I’ll give you mine. We’ll figure it out because we don’t have any other choice.”

Oct 16, 2020

“People bury the parts of history they don't like, pave it over like African cemeteries beneath Manhattan skyscrapers.”


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