I confess that I feel entirely inadequate to reviewing When No One is Watching. Thrillers are’t usually my genre. This thriller is layered with racial politics and I didn’t give myself nearly enough time to digest and process. As a white woman of a certain age, I assuredly missed nuances. Despite all of my reservations about myself as a reviewer for this book, I highly recommend it.
Sydney Green has moved back to her mother’s brownstone in Brooklyn after a divorce and professional failure. Her mother’s health has declined, adding to Sydney’s stress and grief. Sydney is delightfully snarly and messy. Her best friend accuses her of “panning for gold on Fuckboy Creek.” Initially she questions her perception of the changes happening around her. She treats herself like an unreliable narrator. All through the book, the foundations of her life are knocked askew, but she gains strength and confidence as she has to rely on herself.
Theo and his now ex-girlfriend, Kim, bought the brownstone across the street. Theo is recently unemployed and forced to live in the house he bought with his ex as a second class citizen. He is also unsure of the ground under his feet and noticing the weird goings on in the neighborhood. Theo down’t think of himself as a gentrifier, he thought he was buying a house and solidifying his relationship. The white people in the neighborhood expect him to be on their side, which will create a familiar tension for many readers.
I think the more you know about gentrification and how Black communities have been prevented from accumulating wealth, the scarier this book will be. The things that happen in this book echo things that have happened in real life. One of the scariest elements is realizing that there does not need to be an organized conspiracy to rip apart Black communities and ruin people’s lives.
Along with being tense, When No One is Watching is also gripping, funny, and heartbreaking. The rescue is tremendously satisfying, and the ending left me feeling a bit like the little boy at the end of Time Bandits.
I’m looking forward to rereading this many more times. I think I’ll actually enjoy it more now that I know how it ends.
I received this as an arc from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.