ITV’s Karen Pirie is a new must-watch cold-case crime drama, based on the acclaimed series by Scottish crime writer Val McDermid.

Brought to TV by World Productions - creators of Bodyguard and Line of Duty - this detective series brings to life one of McDermid’s most iconic characters, DS Karen Pirie.

McDermid’s distinctive writing, which has been dubbed Tartan Noir, has previously been adapted for TV with Wire in the Blood, starring Robson Green, and Traces, starring Molly Windsor.

Karen Pirie is being adapted for TV by Emer Kenny (Harlots, Save Me Too, The Curse).

Talking about the adaptation, McDermid said: “It's always exciting to see a project like Karen Pirie leave the page and head for the screen. We've been fortunate to secure a very talented and enthusiastic cast and shooting in Scotland is definitely added eye-candy! Audiences are in for a treat.”

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What is ITV's Karen Pirie release date?

Karen Pirie starts Sunday 25 September at 8pm on ITV.

The crime drama will consist of three 120-minute episodes.

Karen Pirie cast

Outlander actress Lauren Lyle will play DI Karen Pirie in the ITV drama Getty
Outlander actress Lauren Lyle
  • Lauren Lyle (Outlander) – Playes DS Karen Pirie
  • Emer Kenny (Harlots) – Plays River Wilde
  • Chris Jenks (Sex Education) – Plays Jason ‘Mint’ Murray
  • Zach Wyatt (Blithe Spirit) – Plays DS Phil Parhatka
  • Michael Schaeffer (The Salisbury Poisonings) – Plays Tom ‘Weird’ Mackie
  • Ariyon Bakare (His Dark Materials) – Plays Alex Gilbey
  • Alex Newman (Unforgotten) – Plays Sigmund ‘Ziggy’ Malkiewicz
  • Rosie Duff (Casualty) – Played by Anna Russell-Martin
  • John Lumsden (Pancake) – Plays young Sigmund ‘Ziggy’ Malkiewicz
  • Jack Hesketh (Besa) – Plays young Tom ‘Weird’ Mackie
  • Buom Tihngang (Death In Paradise) – Plays young Alex Gilbey

Outlander star Lauren Lyle, in the title role, leads the cast of the cold case crime series.

“I am completely overjoyed to be bringing the formidable force that is DS Karen Pirie to life through Emer Kenny's slick adaptation,” said Lyle.

“The world Emer has created using the backbone of Val McDermid's much loved books is electrifying and hooked me immediately.

What is the Karen Pirie plot?

Writer and actress Emer Kenny Getty
Writer and actress Emer Kenny has adapted McDermid's novel The Distant Echo for television and plays River Wilde in the drama

The first DS Karen Pirie story finds the young detective tackling a case from 25 years ago, involving the brutal murder of teenager Rosie Duff in the university town of St Andrews.

In 1996, suspicion fell on three drunken students, Ziggy, Weird and Alex, who were discovered at the crime scene. However, no forensic evidence could be found and the police case fell apart.

When some new secrets start to be revealed about the case in a provocative true crime podcast, Karen Pirie quickly discovers a flawed investigation and attempts to finally uncover the truth about what happened to Rosie.

Is Karen Pirie a true story?

Karen Pirie is a fictional character created by popular crime writer Val McDermid. She is described as a "young and fearless Scottish investigator with a quick mouth and tenacious desire for the truth".

The cold case series is not based on true events.

What book is Karen Pirie based on?

Crime writer Val McDermid David Levenson/Getty
Crime writer Val McDermid has written six Karen Pirie novels

Karen Pirie is based on the first book in the Val McDermid series, The Distant Echo.

The full list of Karen Pirie novels:

  • The Distant Echo (2003)
  • A Darker Domain (2008)
  • The Skeleton Road (2014)
  • Out of Bounds (2016)
  • Broken Ground (2018)
  • Still Life (2020)

Writer Emer Kenny said: “I am so grateful to Val McDermid for lending me her brilliant characters, and beyond excited to work with the actors and Gareth Bryn to bring them to the screen.

“From the moment I read that Karen Pirie orders a Bacardi Breezer as her after-work drink (other brands of alcopop are available) I knew that she was the detective for me.

“Val is the queen of crime for good reason and I’m honoured to be bringing her creation to a TV audience, especially for ITV which has been home to some of my favourite detective shows, from Broadchurch to Prime Suspect.”

McDermid said: “I'm sure this adaptation will bring Karen many new fans as well as delighting her existing ones.

“Karen and the Historic Cases Unit are in very safe hands!”

The novels of celebrated crime writer Val McDermid have sold over 17 million copies worldwide. The Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series of novels was adapted into Wire in the Blood starring Robson Green for ITV.

Where is Karen Pirie filmed?

Writer and star Emer Kenny posted pictures on Instagram during filming for Karen Pirie.

The series was shot on location in Scotland.

Scenes were shot at Deas Wharf, Kirkcaldy, various locations in St Andrews such as the Cathedral, harbour, university, The Pends, Market Place and The Scores and Glasgow.

How to watch Karen Pirie

Karen Pirie starts Sunday 25 September at 8pm on ITV.

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