REVIEW Karen Pirie (S1 E2/3)

DS Karen Pirie’s investigation into the cold case death of St Andrews barmaid Rosie Duff is derailed by the murder of one of her chief suspects – but has the original police investigation been compromised to cover up some unpleasant facts?

So far, this adaptation of Val Dermid’s novel The Distant Echo has proceeded on familiar lines. When a podcaster has prompted the re-opening of a reopening of an unsolved death, spiky and inexperienced DS Karen Pirie (Lauren Lyle) has been assigned, she suspects more for the ‘optics’ rather than with any faith that she can solve the case. But her dogged police work has dug up all sorts of fresh clues – overlooked photographs, unquestioned witnesses and unexamined forensics. Of course, she’s clashed with her older, male bosses, who don’t really want the past dragged up – is this because they have something to hide?

Suspect Ziggy, one of the three students who say they found the barmaid’s body, has been killed in a hit-and-run; so is someone targeting the suspects? Is it podcaster Bel, whose background seems vague, and who has ‘accidentally’ identified the suspects on her blog; Rosie’s thuggish family; or maybe one of the police?

A more likely suspect now seems to be Grace (Bobby Rainsbury), the daughter of victim Rosie, who had been given up for adoption. Pirie tracks her down by underhand means, using a genealogy website, and she’s last seen looming over one of the other suspects, with hammer in hand.

Grace clearly had daddy issues, but we don’t know who her daddy is. Our money is on vulpine cop DI Simon Lees (Steve John Shepherd), now Pirie’s immediate boss.  

Pirie also tracks down the student, Dorothy, who gave Tom ‘Weird’ Mackie an alibi, which is quickly unravelled. She also has new DNA tests done on a hair found in Weird’s car, which proves to be Rosie’s – showing how genetic science has moved on since the 90s.  

Though the plot progresses a lot in this episode, we don’t find out much more about Pirie as a character. DC ‘Mint’ Murray gets a comedy moment when assigned to track down some missing clothing in the evidence vaults, Pirie has a reconciliation with on/off lover DS Phil Parahatka, and we finally get to see what she keeps in her bumbag – it’s her phone. But aren’t there better places to keep a phone? And is it a bumbag if you wear it at the front?

But there’s another major dramatic flaw in the writing of this episode. Weird, we see in flashback, made a botched suicide attempt which ended up in the death by drowning of a senior police officer, DI MacLennan (Gilly Gilchrist). If that had been the case, every single police officer on the case would have been talking about nothing else since the start of the series; introducing this little fact without any previous mention is unconvincing.

Apart from shouting into the landscape and kicking car tyres, Pirie isn’t given many ways to express her frustration with the way the case is going; but when she cracks it next week, we bet the solution will cast a shadow onto both the historical failings of the police, and the patriarchy Pirie is kicking against.

Chris Jenkins

Rating: 3 out of 5.


Karen Pirie can be seen on ITV and ITV Hub in the UK


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Jane says:

    I’m really enjoying this after the lacklustre Ridley. Yes you get the feeling the police are implicated and there were some drinking in the pub where Rosie worked in the first episode.


  2. Maria says:

    I find it very hard to suspend disbelief with this because during the 2021 action, there’s no evidence of the pandemic even taking place.


  3. Elaine says:

    So pleased you picked up the lack of discussion of the detective’s death. As you say surely it would have come up before now. And definitely a vibe of police cover up. And Jane, so agree with you, it’s much better than the poor Ridley.


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