Review: “When No One Is Watching” by Alyssa Cole

Alyssa Cole is an award-winning author of historical, contemporary, and sci-fi romance. Her Civil War-set espionage romance An Extraordinary Union was the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award’s Best Book of 2017 and the American Library Association’s RUSA Best Romance for 2018, and A Princess in Theory was one of the New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2018.  Alyssa Cole’s “When No One Is Watching” speaks of privilege. From gentrification and the many systems that are stealing land, and buildings, and lives still in 2020, to police brutality and who they are willing to protect and who they are willing take everything from, to the vast different micro aggressions they are forced to endure every single day. I encourage you to lead into the discomfort.

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.

If you are looking for a thriller as we head into the Fall, this novel is for you. I appreciated Cole’s unpacking of American history embedded within a slow burning mystery. As we breathe in the civil unrest in the U.S., “When No One Is Watching” will truly affect you. If you are a fan of films such as “Get Out” and “Rear Window”, “When No One Is Watching” will be a delicious but also challenging emotional read.

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