Karen Pirie release date: Cast, plot and latest news for ITV crime adaptation

The cold case crime novels are coming to the small screen, with Lauren Lyle leading the cast.

Lauren Lyle

Book lovers and crime fans rejoice! An upcoming ITV series will adapt the work of Val McDermid, whose novels have sold 17 million copies worldwide.


Her popular Karen Pirie series has been going since 2003 (and consists of six novels) – so there will be plenty of material for ITV to work with.

The first season will be made up of three episodes, each two hours long. Here’s everything we know about it so far.

When is the Karen Pirie release date?

A release date for Karen Pirie is yet to be confirmed. As of May 2021, the show is filming in Scotland – so we might expect it to air in late 2021, or early 2022.

Which book is Karen Pirie based on?

The show is based on The Distant Echo by Val McDermid, the first book in her long-running Karen Pirie series.

McDermid’s novels have sold 17 million copies worldwide, and this isn’t the first time they’ve been adapted for the small screen. Her Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series were used as the basis for ITV crime drama Wire in the Blood.

Crime author Val McDermid
Crime author Val McDermid (Getty)

What is Karen Pirie about?

The Karen Pirie novels follow a young Scottish detective in the Scottish university town of St. Andrew’s. We’re told: “True to Val McDermids iconic character, DS Karen Pirie is a young and fearless Scottish investigator with a quick mouth and tenacious desire for the truth.”

The series, which is filming in Scotland, will see Pirie reopen the investigation into a 1996 murder case following the popularity of a provocative true-crime podcast. No charges were made over the death of teenager Rosie Duff, despite suspicion falling on the three drunken students who claimed to have found her body.

Twenty-five years later, Karen will see if these men know more than they previously let on, uncover several flaws in the initial investigation and find resistance from the police force itself from the officers who led the original inquiry.

Who is in the Karen Pirie cast?

The eponymous character will be played by Outlander’s Lauren Lyle, who was “completely overjoyed” to be starring in the series.

Lyle said: “The world Emer has created using the backbone of Val McDermid’s much loved books is electrifying and hooked me immediately. I couldn’t ask for a more creative, supportive and energetic team to be joining.”

Starring alongside Lyle, are Sex Education’s Chris Jenks as Jason ‘Mint’ Murray, Zach Wyatt (Blithe Spirit) as DS Phil Parhatka, Michael Schaeffer (The Salisbury Poisonings) as Tom ‘Weird’ Mackie senior, Ariyon Bakare (His Dark Materials) as Alex Gilbey senior and Alec Newman (Unforgotten) as Sigmund ‘Ziggy’ Malkiewicz senior.

Who is adapting Karen Pirie?

Emer Kenny (Getty)
Emer Kenny (Getty)

EastEnders writer and actress Emer Kenny has penned the adaptation, which comes from the producers of Bodyguard and Line of Duty.

Kenny said: “From the moment I read that Karen Pirie orders a Bacardi Breezer as her after-work drink (other brands of alco-pop are available), I knew that she was the detective for me. Val [McDermid] is the queen of crime for good reason and I’m honoured to be bringing her creation to a TV audience.”


While you’re waiting for Karen Pirie to air on ITV, take a look at our other Drama coverage, or check out our TV guide to find out what’s on telly tonight.