It would be easy for me to hate Kevin Power. The man is less than two months older than me and has already written a prize-winning novel. I had always thought that aspiring novelists, bar Cecelia Ahern, were meant to sit around vaguely mulling life over until they were 35 or so. The fact that this novel is rather good makes it even more difficult to bear.
Bad Day in Blackrock is a fictionalised look at the death of Brian Murphy outside Anabel's nightclub in Dublin, involving three former Blackrock College students. It's a brave topic for any novelist, let alone a new one, and it inevitably left Power open to accusations of insensitivity. All names have been changed, of course, and some details are altered for the sake of narrative clarity, but it remains an immediately recognisable story to any Irish person.
Yet one only needs to read a few pages of the novel to realise that this is a far more respectful, measured way of examining a delicate issue than the oft-seen 'Tell-All Exposés' that unemployed tabloid journalists like to produce about contentious court cases. Power is examining the way of life of affluent South Dubliners at that moment in time, and the factors that can lead to such things happening. As such, he occasionally runs the risk of sounding like Ross O'Carroll-Kelly without the comedy. A morally barren, self-absorbed, hedonistic picture quickly emerges, whilst Power manages to stay sympathetic at the same time. These are young people behaving badly because their schools and their parents have told them that they can.
As someone who has had daily contact with precisely this milieu through teaching in a private school I find it hard to argue against this. Read Bad Day in Blackrock if you have an interest in how much of Ireland is raising its children. Or just read it if you like well-written, perfectly structured fiction that refuses to err on the side of bombastic, even when it must have been ever so tempting.