Adapted from Scottish crime writer Val McDermid's 2004 novel The Distant Echo, ITV's latest detective drama Karen Pirie sees Outlander's Lauren Lyle take on the lead role. As Karen Pirie, a young Scottish detective, Lyle takes on a cold case in a largely male-dominated environment. Written by (and starring) Harlot's Emer Kenny, Karen Pirie is serving some serious Mare of Easttown and Prime Suspect vibes, with a little Clarice Starling thrown into the mix. Below is everything you need to know about Karen Pirie and what to expect from ITV's new three-episode drama.
Karen Pirie Plot
Fife Police Detective Sergeant Karen Pirie is tasked with reopening a cold case from 1996 involving Rosie Duff, a barmaid who was strangled in the Scottish town of St Andrews. The teen's body was found by three drunken students, Sigmund “Ziggy” Malkiewicz, Tom “Weird” Mackie, and Alex Gilbey, who immediately became suspects. But a lack of forensic evidence prevented any potential criminal charges from going forward.
Twenty-five years on, the initial investigation into Rosie's death was negligent. And, as the official synopsis reads, “someone appears to be willing to risk everything to keep the secrets surrounding the case hidden” and suggests that the three men initially involved may “know more than they previously revealed.”
Karen Pirie Cast
Outlander's Lauren Lyle takes on the lead role of Karen Pirie, one she got spotted for during her work on another ITV drama, Vigil. After reading the script, Lyle had “quite a strong image” of what she wanted Karen to look like — “this modern woman appearing to be a bit androgynous and trying to level up to the men.”
The actor took major inspiration from Kate Winslet's portrayal of Mare Sheehan in Mare of Easttown, as did Karen Pirie's writer Emer Kenny. That and Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect, and even Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality. “She was a real touchstone for both me and Lauren,” Kenny told ITV. “Her toughness, her humour, her rebelliousness against traditional femininity.”
Lyle is joined by Kenny as River Wilde, Sex Education's Chris Jenks as DC Jason Murray, Outlander's Gilly Gilchrist as DI Barney MacLennan, and Vigil's Bobby Rainsbury as Grace Galloway.
Zach Wyatt (The Witcher: Blood Origins), Jack Hesketh (Displaced), Buom Tihngang (Death in Paradise), Alec Newman (The Last Kingdom), Michael Shaeffer (Rogue One), and Ariyon Bakare (His Dark Materials) also star, alongside Anna Russell-Martin (Annika), Kevin Mains (Cilla), Stuart Bowman (Grantchester), Gemma McElhinney (Wild Rose), Rakhee Thakrar (Sex Education), and Steven John Shepherd (Star Wars: Attack of the Clones).
What Else Is There To Know About The Series?
Val McDermid was very involved in helping to adapt The Distant Echo, a book that she felt would be a good fit for television. “I always thought this book could work well because it's got such a dramatic opening and it's an interesting story that takes place over a long period of time,” she told ITV.
And despite obviously being protective of her work, she graciously let Kenny and the writers change what they needed (to a certain extent). “Truly it's the team's job to bring the story to life on their terms,” she said. “My job when the series is being made is only to occasionally step in and tell them if a plot line couldn't happen, because I know what happens further down the line in the books.”
There are actually six books that follow Karen’s journey as a detective, so you can (hopefully) expect more Karen Pirie to come.
Karen Pirie Release Date
The three-part series debuts on ITV on Sunday, Sept. 25 at 8 p.m.