"Unsafe Acts" is the fourth in Bill Kirton's series of crime novels set in north east Scotland. We find Detective Chief Inspector Jack Carston picking up the pieces left by an incompetent sergeant after a group of oil workers spent their first night ashore attacking gay men in various locations across Cairnburgh, Bill Kirton's fictional setting for the Jack Carston series. Things take on an even darker tone when a body is later found of an oil rig safety officer, Ally Baxter, widely believed by his colleagues to be gay, and reviled by them because of it.
Carston has other problems. He doesn't get on with his boss, and believes that the sergeant who fouled up the initial investigation into the violence was placed in his team against his wishes to keep tabs on him. And then a second body is found, of Vicky Bryant, a prostitute. Things begin to get even more intriguing when the police discover that the two victims had known each other extremely well.
"Unsafe Acts" is a thoroughly enjoyable crime novel. The characters are well drawn, and DCI Carston is someone it's easy to like, despite failings that when compared with those often exhibited by fictional cops are relatively minor. He even has that most unusual of things for a fictional detective, a happy marriage. Meanwhile the plot develops nicely, in a way that keep you enthusiastically turning the page, and there are some neat twists and turns as you approach a conclusion that is both unexpected and, with hindsight, completely logical. DCI Carston may not be entirely satisfied with the outcome at the end of the book, but most of Bill Kirton's readers will be.
The settings for the drama are nicely developed, and Carston's excursion to an oil rig is as novel for him as it will be for many readers. Fictional Cairnburgh is a town some 40 minutes inland from Aberdeen on the River Dee, a little like Banchory only rather larger. A fictional setting gives an author freedom to invent and develop a storyline without fear of offending residents of anywhere that actually exists, but it also means the reader (this reader, anyway) spends some of their time trying to mentally locate the setting rather than simply going with the flow of the plot: but this is a minor point and certainly didn't get in the way of our enjoyment of this excellent book.