Review: When No One Is Watching
Harper Collins/William Morrow
September 2020
Contemporary Thriller
REVIEWER: Wayne Jordan | RATING: B+
REVIEW: Alyssa Cole takes her first foray into thriller territory with the timely offering, WHEN NO ONE IS WATCHING. Cole, known for her sensual, and often thought-provoking, romance novels, makes a promising change of pace with this tense psychological thriller.

The novel’s protagonist, Sydney Green has moved back to her old neighborhood in Brooklyn where she grew up, but notices that things have changed. Condos are going up and there are numerous FOR SALE signs. People, she has known for years, have moved out. At first Sydney feels a sense of frustration and on a ‘walking tour’ of the neighborhood realizes that the real history of the community has been whitewashed.

On the planning committee for a block party, Sydney is surprised when Theo, who is white, agrees to assist her with planning her own ‘walking tour’ of the neighborhood. While doing the research, they realize that there is something sinister, and maybe deadly going on.

Both Sydney and Theo are interesting characters. Sydney is vibrant, smart and dynamic. Theo is guarded and at a low point in this life, but somehow, they seem to belong together. Both are dealing with complicated issues in their lives, but  you will discover these issues and more when you read the book. I like the fact that, despite their immediate attraction to each other, the relationship is allowed to slowly mature.

There are some interesting secondary characters but Theo’s girlfriend, Kim, stands out. We only discover her role in the dilemma taking place towards the end. She is the perfect example of white privilege. To me, the book’s main weakness comes in its uneven pacing. The earlier chapters move at a somewhat leisurely pace, and abruptly changes as it moves to a conclusion, which seems a bit rushed. But this is a minor grouse. All the elements of great story telling are present here and Cole’s talent as an author still shines through. Excellent characterization, well-developed internal and external conflicts, and a vivid sense of place, makes this effort a significant one.

WHEN NO ONE IS WATCHING is a promising debut in a new genre for Cole. As it deals with racism and gentrification and sends a strong message to readers, WHEN NO ONE IS WATCHING is too timely not to be important. I am sure that, like me, Cole’s fans will be looking forward to her next release in this genre.

22nd September 2020 |