Although it would be nice to have a thorough biography of the popes, it should be written by someone who shares a Catholic perspective of the papacy. This book does not.
As one who has long reveled in papal history (I have read all 40 volumes of Ludwig von Pastor's magnificent and magisterial History of the Popes and all 19 volumes of Horace K. Mann's very readable and informative work on the medieval popes)I found that this book, despite its provocative title, does a good job telling the history of the Popes in 317 pages. When I first saw the book I expected to merely browse thru it but it caught me up and I read it all. I am giving it five stars not because I agree with all the author's judgments but because it is so well-written that there is not a dull page in the book. He tilts some to the "liberal" side, but that is to be expected, and I liked the fact, e.g., that he spent more time on Nicholas V than on Alexander VI. Incidentally, I did not have any trouble knowing which Leo or Gregory was being discussed, since they are all pretty individual persons one is not likely to confuse. An attention-holding and eminently readable work.