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?
I wasn't sure what to expect, but I can honestly say I think it was less about the thrill of the scare and more about the fright of the story the book is telling. When I came back to NYC to finish my undergraduate degree, I saw the effects of gentrification. I wrote a paper for a journalism class on the subject of gentrification because the effects it had on black and brown neighborhoods overwhelmed me. For example in, Harlem, where I was born and spent a lot of my free time. Instead of seeing the small mom and pop stores where I would buy my most fly gear, those same stores were replaced with stores I would typically have to go further downtown to find. It was like watching a train wreck that I couldn't stop or turn away from. When No One is Watching tells that very story in an eerily, realistic, thrilling way.
Sydney was relatable. She practically leaped off the pages, and she set the tone for the entire story. Everything that happened around her felt disheartening yet ominous. I felt an overwhelming sense of anxiety reading the story, all the while worrying about what would and did wind up happening to Sydney. That was the thrill. Not the blood and gore, not the whodunit, but watching everything happen in painstaking realistic, racist detail.
Considering Cole isn't a thriller writer, her foray into the genre is well done. It had the makings of a thriller, but with the romantic elements, we expect from the author. The "romance" in the story played into and furthered the plot. The twists were unexpected and made for a more exciting story. I had a good time with this despite the moments of anger I felt towards what I'll call the "villains" of the story.
The writing is beautiful, and the story was exciting. As a debut thriller writer, I was pleased and would be eager to see Cole do more in this genre. I loved the premise and the execution of the concept. When No One is Watching is a gripping, exhilarating tale that shines a light on the painful effects of racism on housing and in general.