... the authors illustrate key aspects of Trump’s threat to democracy ... Even if you already know the outlines, the details — many of which have already found their way into the press — deepen one’s sense of how serious, even global, that danger was and how thoroughly Republicans enabled it ... The strength of any Woodward book is its inside sources, but this reporting serves different purposes in each part of Peril. In the Trump half, hair-raising anecdotes show the 45th president behaving much as one expected, or a bit worse. In the Biden half, Woodward and Costa paint, for the first time, a clear picture of how the 46th president operates and what he hopes to achieve in the aftermath of Trump ... here the book is most illuminating: Biden regards the -ism, not the man, as the real threat; Trump put the nation in peril because he evoked and organized a darkness that was already there. And his behavior is more shocking because it serves no purpose greater than salving his own obscure hurts; he is no historic visionary but simply someone who wants the perks of the presidency ... As rich as the book is, it leaves some vital stories untold — for example, the 20-day delay by General Services Administrator Emily Murphy, under evident political pressure from the White House, in releasing funds lawfully allocated to Biden’s transition team and giving its members access to federal agencies.
Some of these landmarks are familiar...But other meaningful moments highlighted here have the quality of discovery ... Some pages of Peril read almost like a screenplay ... most of these detailed exchanges that provide so much of the life of the book are re-created from the shared recollections of 200 other participants whom the authors interviewed ... the authors' perspective on Biden remains far more positive than their view of Trump, caught in the crosshairs here as in Woodward's earlier books ... Ultimately the book compares two men, two presidencies and two utterly different approaches to human relationships. Trump is the more compelling figure, the sun within his own universe and the driving force in national politics. Biden seems less sure of himself, less forceful in debate, often more importuning than commanding ... perhaps what stands out most in each of the book's 72 mini-chapters is the contrast between how the two men treat their immediate circle of staff and associates.
... hurtles through the past two years of dizzying news ... The note about this book’s sources is nearly identical to the notes in the previous two books. The authors interviewed more than 200 firsthand participants and witnesses, though none are named. Quotation marks are apparently used around words they’re more sure of, but there’s a seemingly arbitrary pattern to the way those marks are used and not used even within the same brief conversations...And as usual, though the sources aren’t named, some people get the type of soft-glow light that suggests they were especially useful to the authors ... The unfortunate truth is that disorder is dramatic. In the wake of the riot, Peril loses force. A protracted recounting of security efforts leading up to Biden’s inauguration feels considerably less urgent after the fact. Even more fatally for the book’s momentum, Woodward and Costa devote 20 pages — a lifetime by their pacing standards — to behind-the-scenes negotiations for President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package...Sources may have given Woodward and Costa every detail of these negotiations, but the authors weren’t obligated to use every last one ... The book mounts a final rally, helped by circumstance. In light of recent events, a late section closely recounting Biden’s decision to end the American war in Afghanistan is plenty absorbing ... Like an installment of a deathless Marvel franchise, for all its spectacle Peril ends with a dismaying sense of prologue.