When No One Is Watching
October 4, 2020 10:28 AM - by Cole, Alyssa - Subscribe

In her new book, novelist Alyssa Cole moves away from romance to thriller. Set in a close-knit neighborhood in Brooklyn, the book follows Sydney as Green as she learns more about her old neighborhood and her new neighbors.
posted by jacquilynne (6 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I kept having to put this book down because it was too creepy to read alone at night. It's a disturbingly believable plot.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:29 AM on October 4, 2020

Ha, I had the opposite response to the creepiness and read the whole thing in one go - too creepy to leave unfinished, the only way out is through!

I enjoyed the pacing - the tension slowly builds for the first maybe 4/5ths of the book, and then it breaks into some pretty bonkers action.

I would love to see a film adaptation; it reminds me a bit of Us and Parasite, but still feels like its own thing.
posted by the primroses were over at 7:43 PM on October 4, 2020

It definitely feels like it could be a great film. There's a lot of stuff in it that seems cinematic -- hidden stairwells and long empty corridors and things you sort of see out of the corner of your eye. I wonder if I'd see it if it was a movie? I don't like scary movies, because they scare me. I even wondered before I read the book if it might be a bit much, but I'm a fan of Alyssa Cole and it was billed as a thriller rather than a horror, so I decided it would be okay and in the end, it wasn't too much for me. The part I found the creepiest was probably the Uber bit. I was genuinely worried for Sydney while that was happening -- I kept thinking 'oh, no no no no'. Worse things happen later, but she has more agency and awareness by then.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:09 AM on October 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

I had to read this in one big gulp, as well; too much unresolved tension otherwise! I'm not much of a thriller reader, not fond of scary stuff, but wherever Alyssa Cole ventures, I'll follow.

I was really struck by something Sydney said about history/researching history: "The shitty part of all this research is that it’s like . . . finding all these instances of people burying land mines in the past, finding them right as they're blowing up under our feet in the here and now." She was speaking about her specific situation, though it really crystallized for me how a lot of living-in-the-present feels like: not just an agricultural/natural metaphor like seeds of the past coming to fruit, not just reaping what you sow (because what we reap is what other people sowed--not our fault, but still our responsibility to deal with), but an acknowledgment of the intentional violence.

On a craft level, I really liked how Cole incorporated the neighborhood app posts/comments. I also really liked how Sydney's community was intergenerational, which brought a real strength and depth.
posted by mixedmetaphors at 2:25 PM on October 8, 2020

I stayed up past my bedtime three nights in a row reading it. The big scene at the is over-the-top but I liked it -- by that time I was picturing it as a movie, and it could work. I don't usually read books this tense, and if it were a movie it would be too much for me, but I liked this a lot. I placed holds on the first books in some of her other series in the hopes that they'll have the solid writing from this without so much tension.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:23 PM on October 11, 2020

I have read nearly all of her books and I can confirm that none of the others come close to this level of tension. The Radio Silence series has its moments but not on the same level. There are moments of danger in the historicals but not the same kind of creeping dread. They are all romance novels at heart so there is an underlying sense that in the end there will be a happily every after.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:51 PM on October 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

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