Some regard the story as unreliable, but I argued in an article in 2008 that we have good reason to believe that the account is in fact reliable. I also worked some with cultural background about this passage.
The article is available for download or reading here (Andrews University Press):
This new book (Biographies and Jesus, edited by Edward T. Wright and myself) provides essays analyzing ancient biographies’ use of sources, etc., showing that biographers saw their genre as requiring dependence on prior information. Biographies written within a few generations normally preserved considerable information about their subjects, a matter with relevance for the Gospels. It is somewhat technical (so it is not for everybody), but it provides serious research and documentation for subsequent work on which I and others will be able to build.