When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole

Thursday, September 10, 2020


by Alyssa Cole
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Adult
Publisher: William Morrow 
Publication Date: September 1st 2020
Source: ARC received for review
Star Quotient: ★★★★
Kiss Factor: ✷✷

Alyssa Cole is a rare author who can tackle any genre and excel at it. She's brilliant at everything she does and her new thriller is further proof of how immensely talented she is. When No Is Watching is not your typical thriller, but it for sure is a nail-biter.

For a good portion of this novel, I had absolutely no idea where this book was heading and weirdly enough, I liked it. The first half of the book subtly paints the picture of gentrification and racism within this historically Black Brooklyn neighborhood. We experience the neighborhood's rich history and culture through the no-nonsense protagonist, Sydney's, eyes. It was haunting and thought-provoking as the occurrences in the book aren't far from the reality that Black people face in 2020. Though When No One Is Watching wasn't an action-packed or fast-paced novel at first, it still managed to be a tense page-turner because it explored these themes that are very relevant to modern-day America. Alyssa Cole didn't shy away from an honest portrayal of gentrification and its ties to colonialism in the book and you'll be left in awe at how brilliantly she weaved in real pieces of history and social commentary into this fictional tale.

The book also alternated with chapters told through the voice of Theo, a white man who has recently moved into the neighborhood along with his abusive girlfriend. Personally, there were times when I felt that Theo was a little bit out of place in this book. I understood why he was necessary at certain points because he did play a crucial role in being the contrast to Sydney's character, but I never grew to relate to him as much as did Sydney, who truly was the star of this book along with some of the neighbors in the community. There are white characters who are absolutely terrible in this book who will completely anger you, but they'll keep you reading the book, crossing your fingers in hopes that karma will test them all.

Shit truly hit the fan in the final act of When No One Is Watching. Alyssa Cole delivered with one twist after the other, one revelation after the other, and I was a giant ball of stress. At one point, I even yelled to myself and nearly threw my Kindle because I could not imagine how any of it could end well. If you consume alcohol, you're definitely going to need a good drink after you finish the book just for dealing with all that stress! You'll be thankful for the experience, however. I can promise you that. I think my only complaint about When No One Is Watching was a couple of loose ends that were left unanswered. It may have been a deliberate choice on the author's part, but there was one storyline in particular, I just needed answers to.

You'll notice that I didn't go into too much detail about the characters in my review and that was a deliberate choice. I was concerned about potentially spoiling the story by revealing too much about the characters and their baggage. I'll let those of you haven't read the book yet discover that all on your own. When No One Is Watching is an original and realistic story and I hope you'll give it a chance. I think this is the sort of book all of us should read to at least begin to understand the plight and injustices that Black people face. I look forward to seeing what else Alyssa Cole has up her sleeves in this genre.

CW: racism, racial injustice, murder, gore, gun violence

Let's chat!
Have you read anything from Alyssa Cole? Have you read any good books that incorporate history into a contemporary fictional story?
Let me know in the comments below!