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The Indy Book Club is back in action for August with When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole. Cole ties the horrors of gentrification and racism together in this thriller set in Brooklyn. We follow Sydney Green, a Black woman in her thirties, who starts to notice unusual changes happening in her neighborhood. New construction seems to be everywhere, apartments are selling more than usual, and her lifelong neighbors are disappearing overnight. Developers prowl around Sydney’s neighborhood, promising a better life to those willing to move, but Sydney is convinced something more sinister is at play and teams up with her neighbor Theo to investigate.

This novel creeped me out from beginning to end. Cole creates a setting fit for a contemporary romance and juxtaposes that with the very dark realities of institutional racism, all of which adds up to a chilling novel with much more substance than a typical thriller. I felt frustrated, angry, and scared when I read this novel. It is rare for a thriller author to unpack social justice issues in their work, but Cole does it effectively in an educational and entertaining way.

Join the Indy Book Club, a collaboration between the Santa Barbara Independent and the Santa Barbara Public Library, for a virtual discussion of When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole on Wednesday, August 31, at 6 p.m. Register at

The original version of this newsletter was sent out on Tuesday, April 9.

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