In Alyssa Cole’s thriller, When No One Is Watching, we meet Sydney Green, a Brooklynite who, after a failed marriage, returns home to take care of her aging ill mother. Upon her return, Sydney observes that her neighborhood is changing rapidly. There’s an influx of new, young white couples replacing the old black neighbors she knew growing up. The Black residents are disappearing without warning, and no one seems to know where they go, once they’ve sold their homes.
The thrill begins as Sydney, with the somewhat unwelcomed help of her white neighbor Theo, starts to uncover the alarming reasons why her neighbors are leaving and where they go. Can she truly trust Theo? And will she be the next one to disappear?
From the very beginning, Cole masterfully lays the groundwork to embed the feeling of dread and paranoia into the reader and our protagonist. The themes of macroaggressions, gentrification, and the measures that realtors, organizations, and companies will take to displace older homeowners in certain profitable and historically Black neighborhoods, are very real issues that we’re dealing with today. Very innocuous interactions are weaponized against Sydney and her Black neighbors, which makes one think of how, given our current state of affairs, life can easily imitate art and that is the state of terror in which we exist.
Cole’s When No One is Watching is a truly gripping and enjoyable thriller. While the ending wrapped up a little too quickly and neatly, the story will dwell in your mind long after you close the book.