[McCarten] instinctively accentuates the drama and intrigue in this strange but engaging story ... Not surprisingly, neither Holy Father gets much deference in McCarten's treatment. Benedict and Francis are both imperfect men, presented here mainly as Joseph Ratzinger, the law-and-order son of a German policeman, and Jorge Bergoglio, the holier-than-thou priest of the Buenos Aires slums ... For a church in crisis, any ambiguity in its leadership presents a serious problem, and McCarten tells the story as clearly as it has ever been told.
Their stories, based largely on secondary sources in McCarten’s telling, are dramatic and, accordingly, are used in the screenplay (of the same name) the author has written for a motion picture that will debut on Netflix in 2019.
Sensationalized ... McCarten is largely dismissive of Benedict as anything aside from an academic ... Though the author is obviously more aligned with Pope Francis’ progressiveness, he does not spare the newest pope from scrutiny. He provides a disconcerting report of Francis’ career in Argentina, strongly suggesting that he was complicit, even if only through silence, with the brutality his nation faced in the late 20th century. Ultimately, though intermittently intriguing, this book is just another average addition to the well-saturated genre of Vatican intrigue works. Since the author fails to provide much new information or analysis, serious readers will want to look elsewhere ... Only slightly better than a tabloid look at papal controversies.