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Shining City

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  238 ratings  ·  58 reviews
A witty and sexy satire about how contemporary American culture defines right and wrong, good and bad, from the acclaimed author of The Bones.
When good guy Marcus Ripps takes over his black sheep brother’s lucrative dry cleaning business, he has no idea what he’s in for. Before long, he is running one of the most popular escort services in West Hollywood. As the money sta
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published July 8th 2008 by Bloomsbury USA (first published January 1st 2008)
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3.61  · 
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 ·  238 ratings  ·  58 reviews

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Apr 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I no longer remember what caused me to open this book. I think maybe it was something I read about the author or one of his other books but whatever it was... thank you!! It was thoroughly enjoyable. Marcus gets laid off from his job at a toy manufacturer because they are moving the manufacturing to China. He flounders. Until his estranged brother dies and leaves him his business which turns Marcus into a pimp. It works, trust me.
Jun 24, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008december
Another one I wish I remembered why I marked to read.

Man's estranged brother dies, leaving him a thriving escort service, just as he's lost his factory-management job and prospects look dim. It's got all the right parts for a kooky comedy/satire, right down to a pole-dancing, pot-smoking, glaucoma-having grandma. But they never quite jell into anything interesting.

Apr 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anybody who needs a good laugh...with an edge to it.
Darkly hilarious -- Seth Greenland asks a lot of unsettling questions about what basically good people might find themselves doing to make ends meet in the current economic climate, as a laid-off factory manager inherits a dry cleaning business from his estranged brother that turns out to be a front for an escort service.
Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
The perfect companion for two days of long plane rides and even longer airport layovers.
Apr 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very different from my usual reads. Interesting on how ones like can change. I think actor Enrico Colantoni would make a great Marcus.
Sep 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
Life for Marcus Ripps is becoming complicated. Marcus, the production manager for a toy company, has a huge mortgage, ever increasing bills, and an elaborate bar mitzvah to finance. His wife Jan is entangled in a business venture that isn't making any money and their sex life is suffering because of it. His live-in mother-in-law is ailing and facing surgery with no insurance. When Marcus's boss announces that the plant is moving to China and he must relocate to keep his job, it seems as if there ...more
John Luiz
Aug 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Greenland has a very funny premise here. When a criminal dies, he lives his “dry-cleaning business” to his long estranged brother. This business “opportunity” lands in his brother’s lap at the perfect time. Marcus Ripps, an average Joe, has just found out that the entire toy-manufacturing operation where’s he been a foreman for 15 years is being shipped to China. Without the inheritance from his brother Marcus would have two options – move his wife and 13-year-old son to China to run the plant t ...more
Sep 24, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
I'm always in the market for a funny book, simply because there aren't that many good ones. So, after hearing lots of buzz about how hilarious this book was, I took it along on vacation. The story revolves around an mild-mannered Los Angeles factory manager in his late 30s named Marcus. When his childhood friend and current employer pulls the rug out from under Marcus's middle-class lifestyle by relocating his job to China, Marcus is left twisting in the wind as the family's debts start to pile ...more
Lisa Hura
Jul 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
You can read this and other reviews on my blog.

Marcus Ripps is an ordinary guy - he manages a toy factory in Van Nuys, his wife, Jan, runs a small boutique, his son is getting ready for his bar mitzvah. Then the factory moves to China, Marcus loses his job and suddenly the family is struggling to keep a roof over their heads. Enter Marcus' estranged brother Julian - or rather exit, since Julian joins the story as he's dying of a heart attack. He leaves Marcus a dry cleaning business, which Marcu
Athira (Reading on a Rainy Day)
I won this book at the First Reads give-away and got started with it right after receiving it. I liked how the book started, it was quite gripping. I particularly liked that the main character, Marcus was a nice guy, but made decisions based on his survival instinct, rather than to "do the right thing". It feels good to read a book about some one normal, who is not driven by altruism or love for others, but just by his instinct to survive and do what he can to avoid a bad name, as most of us wou ...more
Feb 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The most marvelous thing about Greenland's novel of an average guy who accidentally becomes a pimp is the juxtaposition of his eloquent vocabulary and the somewhat crass subject matter. Greenland describes the nature of Marcus' business in such poetic terms that you forget you're reading about golden showers and bondage. Marcus ruminates extensively about the moral implications of his new enterprise, wondering what kind of example he is setting for his son, while also being able to provide so mu ...more
Dec 16, 2010 rated it it was ok
I think the marketing of Shining City does it a mild disservice -- it's positioned as a story in which a more-or-less normal guy inherits a small business from his estranged brother that is not what it at first seems. Really, it's a story about a more-or-less normal guy whose life is repeatedly jostled out of equilibrium by a serious of events, of which the inheritance is actually the second. (Several of the equilibrium plot twists severely strained my credulity -- the novel is basically in a na ...more
Josh Ades
Apr 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shining City is a fast read full of humor ranging from absurdity to a quick sex joke. I read this novel in two sittings with no hassle as the story moved forward at a solid clip. The only oddness I encountered is Seth Greenland's elite vocabulary snapping an everyman's story from the summer read list bag and occasionally placing it on an SAT study guide. Greenland's screenwriting background is clear in the format which creates an engaging, modern read. Sometimes awkward truths about relationship ...more
Sep 22, 2008 rated it liked it
A new author for me, now that I have finished with T. Jefferson Parker to date. This is only Mr. Greenland's second book; he's mostly a playwright and writer for TV and movies. The protagonist here has inherited his dead brother's call girl stable and runs it like a real business, complete with 401(k) plans for his "employees". His conscience gets in the way, though, as he puts his mother-in-law on the health plan, saves for a spectacular bar mitzvah for his son, and tries to revitalize his marr ...more
Aug 04, 2011 rated it liked it
Picked this up on a whim and really enjoyed it. I'm sure the comparison is incredibly annoying to the author, but it is very reminiscent of Elmore Leonard at least in its comedic style. He does have a nice descriptive touch and the book goes off in some surprising directions at times. Has a good sense of suburbia even if some of the characters are a little formulaic and not all that realistic. Wish he would have come up with a different ending. Made me think he was considering how it would play ...more
Jul 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
I was pleasantly surprised that within the first two pages of reading this, I was laughing out loud. It is the story of a middle-aged man named Marcus who inherits his brother's business just as he loses his job managing a toy company due to it moving to China. His brother's business just happens to be running an escort service. The tale of how Marcus handles this new development is really funny and surprisingly believable. Greenland definitely has a talent for both dialogue and action sequences ...more
Jan 02, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: humor
Read this after reading a favorable Jonathan Yardley review ... I generally enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone looking for a quick, pretty funny read. At its best, the writing is reminiscent of Christopher Buckley's style. But too often the situational humor falls flat, as with the much-built-up bar mitzvah scene that gets resolved in a rather blase fashion. It also would have been nice to have Marcus's philosophical musings more believably woven into the plot; this aspect felt contrive ...more
Larry Buhl
Jan 20, 2011 rated it liked it
Middle aged professional being downsized and outsourced suddenly inherits his sleazy brother's laundromat, which turns out to be a front for an escort service. What do you think he would do? Become a pimp of course. Mildly amusing, sometimes verging on slapsticky sitcom (pot smoking pole dancing grandma). Seth stays on a strictly satirical plane without digging deeper into the murky and uncomfortable reality of why being a pimp is more lucrative, more secure and sometimes more noble than working ...more
Jan 24, 2015 rated it liked it
I was hoping for more laughs but the author uses the unlikely premise to ponder themes of good and evil and social judgement. Marcus, our protagonist, loses his 15 year job as factory manager and due to his inability to find a new job and the impending financial needs of his family decides that when he has the opportunity to pick up/inherit the escort service that his estranged and financially successful brother had created.
Jan 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book, I would have given it 3.5 stars but as we can't give a half star on GR and the book provided such entertainment I had to give it 4. It was laugh aloud funny to me in parts. Living in LA for a number of years helped me appreciate the satire and wit of this book. The characters are likable, the language clever, and the story kept unfolding..looking forward to reading the Angry Buddhist next!
Ashlei (abt8113)
Aug 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is a Goodreads giveaway book for me. I found this book to be really funny in the laugh out loud kind of way, which I was not expecting. I generally laugh out books, but it is not that often that a book makes me laugh loudly. I also found myself thinking of how I would handle this (or what I would want my husband to do) if this ever happened to me, although the situation of inheriting a dry cleaning/prostitution ring is a little out there. I was pleasantly surprised.
Lynn Wood
Nov 08, 2010 rated it liked it
Entertaining quick read satire about a guy who inherits a laundry, which turns out to be a call girl service, from his black sheep brother. Starts off with some rather clumsy vocabulary showboating (philologically pedantic, maybe?) but settles down to effectively tell an amusing tale. It won't shed light on the meaning of life, but it does provide a means to put one more day of it behind us without turning on the TV.
Oct 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
The author reminds me a lot of Carl Hiaasan in that the humor is very much the same. If you like this book I would suggest "Sick Puppy" where there are prostitutes who will serve only Republican clientele. I am not a fan of writing that seems forced to be humorous so I appreciated the understated humor. It was funny to imagine setting up a prostitution ring where the women have health insurance and 401Ks.
Jul 22, 2014 rated it liked it
Humorous look at the American idea of success. It is part of the irony that the protagonist really does overcome the odds after being unceremoniously and unsentimentally dumped from his job as factory manager. A fun read, made more so because the one thing that unites all the good people in this story is the thought of getting wealthy in the family business.
The pace lagged at times and a couple of loose ends needed to be tied up I thought, but a clever idea and mostly well executed.
Jun 30, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: brain-candy
Entertaining, and "fluffy" when I had a lot going on at work, but definitely outside my norm. Felt myself blushing whenever I pulled this out on the T/bus which brought down the ranking. (While I have learned not to judge the book by the cover, mom, I have no faith that others won't judge me based on it.)
Jul 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
I don't remember how I came across this book, and when I started it I wondered what the hell I was reading. However, I ended up loving it. Despite the strange and unbelievable plot, I laughed out loud a number of times and found my self engrossed in the Ripp's new family business. You can't take the book seriously, but it is definitely entertaining.
Jul 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
I can't believe how much I liked this book. It's a multi-perspective fantasy about running an "escort service" and the sex in it is strictly marital. Almost all the characters are white. The narrative is full of hilarious little twists and the end is a totally satisfying gotcha, and everything works out for our hero & heroine.

I should hate it, what is wrong with me.
Aug 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
It took me a while to read but I did enjoy it. This guy just can't seem to get a break. He is an ordinary guy who can't get ahead. His wife is unaffectionate, his job stinks, his mother-in-law is living with them. Then his estranged brother leaves him a dry cleaning business that turns out to be a front for an escort service. Funny and tragic.
Jan 30, 2010 rated it it was ok
I won this in a First Reads giveaway months ago but kept setting it aside as I found more interesting and enjoyable books to read. I think that my issue was that I was expecting a more humorous book. Also, I didn't really enjoy any of the characters with the possible exception of Lenore, the pot-smoking, pole dancing, grandmother. Overall, the book was not at all to my taste.
Aug 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
I picked this up on a whim and was so glad I did. He is definitely a LA writer. The book is laugh out loud funny at points. The characters are fleshed out and could be the people next door. I highly recommend it for a great funny read. There are some darker parts but they are kind of funny as well.
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