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What the critics liked

Landslide (Little, Brown £20) is the third book in as many years in what will come to be known as Michael Wolff’s “Trump trilogy”, says Mick Brown in the Telegraph. Dissecting “Donald’s erratic, mercurial period in the White House”, it concentrates on the “cataclysmic weeks after the election” and Trump’s attempts to overturn the result. It is “the best yet”.

Landslide cuts deeper than any previous book about this president, indeed about any president, says Justin Webb in The Times. “It suggests that he was and is out of control.” At one point Trump tells Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, that he is thinking of calling off the election – “too much virus”. Christie is astounded: “You do know you can’t declare martial law.” It was both alarming and awkward, Wolff “deadpans”, that he might not.

The former president sees “all life as negotiable”. He viewed the 2020 election that way: “not necessarily as a win or lose proposition”, more as “a roadblock or technicality to get around, like taxes”. And he thought he had got around it.

As they “careened towards the inevitable clash with reality, with reason”, and with Congress, it was Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, who became the “public face” of the legal effort to overturn the election: he is portrayed as often drunk, “plagued by what many believed were the beginnings of senility”. Mark Meadows, Trump’s right-hand man, is horrified by the president’s promise to “walk down to the Capitol – and I’ll be there with you”.

“How would we do that? We can’t organise that,” Meadows said. “I didn’t mean it literally,” Trump replies.

Wolff even gets an invite to Mar-a-Lago, where Trump holds court in the “trashy, glitzy” living room. Wolff tells him he is thinking of calling the new book Landslide. “Cool title,” he replies. He “doesn’t do irony”.

Wolff raises a fundamental and frightening possibility, says Nicholas Lemann in The New York Times: that in a democratic society, a “malign and dangerous ‘crazy person’” can become genuinely popular. As Wolff points out, Trump’s standing in the polls went up after January 6. Without making a direct prediction, Landslide leaves us with “the strong impression that Trump will be running for president again in 2024”.

Available as an audiobook on Audible.

Leni Riefenstahl was a film-maker of genius whose name will be forever associated with her 1935 film about Hitler, Triumph of the Will, says AN Wilson in The Spectator. But, despite its title, The Dictator’s Muse (Doubleday £16.99) does no more than “allude to Riefenstahl’s prodigiously long career” or her “intimacy with her most famous subject”. Nigel Farndale’s “fast-paced” thriller concerns the 1936 Olympics and three young English people “caught up in its story”. Kim Newlands, hoping for a gold medal in the long jump, is in Berlin with his girlfriend, Connie, an “upper-class girl of fascist inclination”, and Alun Pryce, a communist who has infiltrated the British Union of Fascists.

Wrapped around this tale of ambition, betrayal and delusion is the present-day story of Sigrun, a young German woman researching “the Riefenstahl myth”, says Siobhan Murphy in The Times. Given access to previously unseen footage, she “slowly discovers her own part in the tale”. Farndale creates “a sense of crackling menace” as he poses questions about “how much moral compromise is justified in the pursuit of greatness”.

Riefenstahl is portrayed with more sympathy than many readers might expect, says Alexander Larman in The Observer, but Farndale’s “panoramic view of pre-war German society on the verge of irreparable change is persuasively evoked”.

Available as an audiobook on Kobo.