Praise for Shining City

[Rosenstiel’s] experience in Washington helps create a very realistic, though often cynical, view of what Washington is like. Perhaps the best measure of his first novel is that it will leave many readers eager to see what comes next.

Associated Press

Washington, D.C., is the Shining City of journalist Tom Rosenstiel’s skillful and memorable first novel—a place of big egos, self-righteous ideologues and dysfunctional government. “No one survives long in the city counting on it to be better than it is,” thinks Peter Rena, the book’s “pragmatic idealist” protagonist. “That doesn’t mean . . . you should make it worse.”

Shining City has the excitement of a courtroom thriller. Its 24-hour attempt “to solve murders three thousand miles and three months apart” delivers the excitement of a police procedural. And its sketches of a host of D.C. types have a nice satiric edge (“Contrary to the caricature his critics make of him, the man is a good deal more than the sum of his resentments”). Finally its hero’s ruminations on politics as the art of the possible give readers much to ponder. “On balance,” a poker-faced Rena concludes, “I think it’s better not to have liars and criminals in government.”

Wall Street Journal

Keep your friends close but your political enemies closer. Peter Rena and his partner, Randi Brooks, are “fixers” who are known for being extremely effective in making problems go away. That’s difficult in Washington, DC, where the struggle for political power is ruthless. When a Supreme Court justice dies suddenly, Rena and Brooks are hired by the president to vet his replacement nominee. Judge Roland Madison is a political maverick, which makes the proceedings even more difficult for everyone. The nomination process then takes a deadly turn when Rena uncovers a series of seemingly random killings that might be connected to Madison. Could Madison also be a target? Rena and Brooks must race to figure out who is behind the murders as they try to protect the president from any political fallout and save Madison’s life. VERDICT Veteran journalist Rosenstiel’s debut novel “shines” with page-turning intensity that will make readers hope that this book is the beginning of a new series. Highly recommended for legal and political thriller junkies and fans of David Baldacci and John Grisham.  

Library Journal, Starred Review

Lucidly, often vividly written…Rosenstiel puts what he has learned as a reporter to good use as a thriller master….It’s hard to believe this novel is so good—or that it will be Tom Rosenstiel’s last.”

Philadelphia Inquirer

Rosenstiel is out to write a roof-rattling thriller, and he’s brought it off in doubles. Peter Rena is a Washington, D.C., operator whose special skill is making problems disappear. This time his client is the president of the U.S., no less, and the problem is the background of the chief executive’s potential Supreme Court nominee. Could he be too radical? He did, after all, protest the Vietnam War. As Rena digs into the past of this man, “who looks like a wholesome Peter O’Toole,” a serial killer goes to work, and we discover, as Rena does, that everything is connected. What’s really fun here is watching old-hand Washington observer Rosenstiel drop insights about the Kabuki world of the nation’s capital. A restaurant hostess doesn’t take drink orders—it’s a status thing. To keep an interview subject ignorant of your agenda, “make him mad at you.” The thriller plot returns, hammer and tongs, for a fine action finale, but what we remember most is characters like the vice president. He’s taken on a gaunt look from attending too many funerals. Give this one to fans of the late, great Ross Thomas.


[Rosenstiel] makes his fiction debut with this polished, entertaining political thriller. President James Nash hires Washington, D.C. spin doctors Peter Rena and Randi Brooks to “scrub” potential Supreme Court nominee Roland Madison. Their researchers reveal a 1960s radical taint in Judge Madison’s background, providing red meat for challenges from Nash’s opponents—in particular the founder an ultra-right wing group Citizens for Freedom. But a more alarming problem arises when the murdered bodies of Madison’s colleagues start turning up. Rena and Brooks must now expand their investigation to hunt for a serial killer. The conservative Rena and the liberal Brooks are an engaging team and Rosenstiel does a brilliant job of dramatizing how Washington’s sausage is made…

Publishers Weekly

Shining City rises as one of the smartest thrillers in recent memory…..Sharply written… each chapter balances cut-throat action with fascinating insider observations, and line-to-line, Rosenstiel’s writing is sparkling clear, even when parsing Washington’s confusing matrix of ideology and special-interest groups. The dialogue is also well-written. It drives the story forward, and the characters speak like real people.… Each character is uniquely motivated, and together, they form a refreshingly original cast. 

With its slam-bang pace, richly-drawn characters, and intricate examination of political skullduggery, Shining City is more than a thrilling adventure—it’s a hard look at how and why Washington so often falls short of its shiny, hill-top ideal.

The Dallas Morning News

Rosenstiel’s insights on D.C. are spot on, told with a reporter’s sparing prose.

Los Angeles Review of Books

With his smart new political thriller, Shining City, journalist, media critic, and first-time novelist Tom Rosenstiel shows great timing. His murder mystery, set against the backdrop of the vetting, nomination, and delicate political sales job for a new Supreme Court justice, is launching just as America is about to endure the real thing….

Rosenstiel nails the tense atmosphere of DC during a “scotus’’ battle — the desperation of warring partisans with so much at stake amid competing pressures exerted by factions within their parties. Most of all, he captures the cynical sense that the parts of the ritual the public gets to see are just shadows in Plato’s cave, with the real confirmation taking place behind ornate oak doors. Yet Shining City is not an ideological book. The reader sees the players through shifting points-of-view, so we see them as they see themselves, in their best light.

Rosenstiel writes well, sometimes even beautifully, and his sketches of scenes and characters are thoughtful and vivid….  It also takes some time for the court confirmation storyline to intersect with the murder mystery, but the reader is in good hands, and Rosenstiel delivers a satisfying wrap-up.

Rena, the fixer, operates in the world of politics, but his creator is a journalist, and it is easy to see where Rena gets his ethics. “Above all Rena believed in facts,” Rosenstiel writes. “Facts were real and had a habit of sticking around. And when there were a sufficient number of them, you could know the truth about something. Maybe not all of it, but enough.” It is a world view that has always been true, but in an era of alternative facts, when notions of verifiable truth are under assault, it reads like something that should be chipped into stone somewhere in Washington.

The Boston Globe

Everything you hope for when you open a novel… The lurid underbelly of Washington’s political process is detailed in exquisite and startling accuracy… The writing is fast paced and exciting.

— Nicolle Wallace, former White House communications director and author of Madam President

 If they’d asked John Grisham to pen a season of House of Cards (not a bad idea, by the way), it would play like Shining City. Tough, smart, nuanced, and with a hammer pace….Pick up this book. Read it. You’ll love it.

— Michael Harvey, author of Brighton

Who knew that a Washington lobbyist could be as exciting and compelling a detective as Spencer, Harry Bosch, Travis McGee or Lew Archer? Tom Rosenstiel has done it. He has created a wonderful character and written a story which is as thought-provoking as it is entertaining. May this series have a very long run.

— E.J. Dionne Jr., syndicated columnist

Shining City is a smart, timely thriller that sends chills up your spine while capturing the verisimilitude of a ripped-from-the-headlines Supreme Court nomination process. Tom Rosenstiel is a writer to watch.

— Alafair Burke, author of The Ex

Shining City is an amazing novel full of insider knowledge and insights that could have only come from a writer who has been there. I don’t mean just inside the Beltway; I mean inside the places of power and justice. Combine that with a plot that pulses with the momentum of an edge-of-your-seat thriller, and Tom Rosenstiel delivers a debut that will be remembered for years.

— Michael Connelly, author of The Wrong Side of Goodbye

Shining City couldn’t possibly be any timelier. Rosenstiel takes us behind the headlines as only an insider can with this first-rate tale of political intrigue and maneuvering. It’s so packed with authentic Washington detail, you can almost feel the humidity.

— Matthew Quirk, author of The 500 and Cold Barrel Zero

At once gripping, cerebral, and eerily prescient, Shining City illuminates the darkest recesses of D.C.’s corridors of power. Tom Rosenstiel’s political machinations ring so true, you’ll wonder if he has the White House wired for sound.

— Chris Holm, author of The Killing Kind

Shining City is a brutal surprise for those of us who are like a fish out of water in Washington. It depicts the tough realities of insider politics while challenging our beliefs. Hard to put down, really good story telling.

— Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist

You can’t talk about Shining City without using the word “timely.” Debut novelist and soothsayer Tom Rosenstiel has written the ultimate political thriller for our era. Fresh off the job of sanitizing a Congresswoman disgraced by her husband, Washington D.C. fixer Peter Rena is personally tapped by the President, an unlikely populist, to vet his Supreme Court Nominee. What follows is a fascinating blend of gritty suspense and chilling political insight that should appeal equally to fans of “House of Cards” and George Pelecanos.

— Thomas Wickersham, Brookline Booksmith

The Series