Category Archives: Karen Pirie

REVIEW Karen Pirie (S1 E3/3)

With her main suspect dead, and her bosses stymying her investigation at every turn, can DS Karen Pirie solve the cold case of the death of barmaid Rosie Duff – and work out who is targeting the original suspects?

In this feature-length conclusion of the first Karen Pirie story, there are two strands to tie up; firstly the death of barmaid Rosie, whether any of the three student suspects were involved, and if the original investigation was deliberately botched; and second, whether the revival of interest in the case by a podcaster has led to the suspects being attacked.

By the end of episode two, it had been made pretty obvious who was attacking the suspects; Grace, the daughter of the dead girl, who has traced her murdered mother through a genealogy site. Living alone in a big farmhouse with a troubled past and a collection of shotguns, Grace is a powder keg waiting to explode. This week, having driven suspect Tom Mackie into a seizure, Grace kidnaps and shoots another suspect, Gilby, and drives off with his baby.

But Pirie has finally cracked the original case, finding an eye-witness who was inexplicably overlooked, identifying a paint sample on the dead girl’s clothes, and tracking it to a caravan owned by a local copper – now her boss, Chief Superintendent Lawson (Stuart Bowman). Lawson’s interference with the original investigation, Pirie realises, points to his guilt – and he was the mysterious, controlling ‘other man’ who Rosie was afraid of.

The list of procedural violations goes off the scale at this point – Pirie breaks into Lawson’s caravan to gather evidence, races back to confront Grace without waiting for backup, summons Lawson to confront Grace, and carries a weapon out the house when she could just as well have left it there. But she does get her man, the stony-faced Lawson, as well as her woman, the deranged Grace.

Now, whether by luck or judgement, this first Karen Pirie case taps into two current newsworthy themes; one, the culture of toxic masculinity in the police, and the way they oppress or even target women; and two, the legacy of racism, which (the suspects in the Rosie Duff killing explain) was the reason they made a pact to keep silent about the case, assuming that one of their number, Gilby, would be accused merely because of the colour of his skin.

Pirie’s words of praise from her superior are well-earned, particularly since, as she points out, she was presumably chosen to tackle the case on the assumption that she wouldn’t be up to it. But she showed them!

This first series made a good job of the mystery, with plenty of enjoyable red herrings – though it was always pretty obvious that the villain was going to be a policeman, and Stuart Bowman always plays a baddie. This is one of the tropes parodied in Charlie Brooker’s A Touch of Cloth, where after being revealed as the villain in series one, Assistant Chief Constable Tom Boss, who killed Jack Cloth’s wife and several jurors, is reinstated, as he has undergone a course and not killed anyone for months.

In this episode, little more is revealed about Karen herself, though we do find out more about the contents of her bumbag – she keeps a multi-tool in there, probably not a good idea if it’s sharing space with her phone. Will her bumbag become like Dr Who’s sonic screwdriver, able to produce a solution to any problem? What else might she keep in there? – a set of Allen keys? A flare gun? A rope ladder?

If there’s one reservation we had about the series, it’s that (rather like Macdonald and Dodds), it doesn’t really do anything with its surroundings; apart from a sequence on a loch, this Scotland could have been anywhere. However, as Karen Pirie herself, Lauren Lyle has carried the show well and she is obviously a star in the making.

But with her on-off relationship with DS Phil Parhatka at the moment on again, and her flatmate River making eyes at her colleague Mint, Karen’s now in a good place, and we look forward to seeing her next case, now that she has proven herself to her doubting male colleagues.  

Chris Jenkins

Episode rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Series rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.



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


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

REVIEW Karen Pirie (S1 E1/3)

Critics are making a lot of the fact that unlike most of the current crop of TV detectives – Professor T, Van Der Valk, Ridley, for instance – DS Karen Pirie is, wow, a female. But is there more to Val McDermid’s character than her chromosomes?

Written in 2003, the first of six Karen Pirie novels, A Distant Echo has obviously been modernised a bit, with its talk of podcasts, ‘woke’ politics, white privilege, Karens and the ‘Me Too’ movement. But some things never change.   

Pyrie (Lauren Lyle) is presented as a downtrodden female in a male-dominated police force – nothing new there, then. So when she’s put in charge of a cold case, the 25-year-old murder of a barmaid in St Andrews, Pirie worries that it’s all for show. But if she can prove herself, though, things might change…

It’s 1996, and three drunken students find a barmaid, Rosie, strangled and stabbed in St Andrews cathedral grounds. But did they have more to do with the death than they admit? 

The crime is never solved, but 25 years later, a podcaster, Bel (Rakhee Thakrar) reopens the case, and the cops, somewhat reluctantly, order a case review, putting Pirie in charge for the ‘optics’. This doesn’t sit well with her on-off lover DS Phil Paralkha (Zack Wyatt), who was expecting the job, though her colleague DC Jason Murray (Chris Jenks), known as Mint, happily falls in with her investigation, 

The three suspects, Alex, Tom and Sigmund, have become a lecturer, an artist and a surgeon, and obviously have something to hide – they denied knowing the victim at the time, though they drank in her pub, and apparently invited her to a party. Though the students’ alibis seem shakey, and the investigation seems to have been cursory, there’s no sign of a murder weapon or of a secondary crime scene, so the investigation goes nowhere.     

A note of suspicion is sounded when Karen realises that the policewoman, Janice, who found Rosie’s body, 

married one of Rosie’s brothers; and that Rosie had a baby by a student, John Stobie, and had it adopted, telling her family it had died.  

Karen doesn’t get much help from Rosie’s thuggish brothers, or from Stobie, who denies being the father – so who was it?

Pirie’s boss Lees (Steve John Shepherd) tries to deflect her from investigating the adoption, but why?

Through flashbacks it’s revealed that the suspect students must have had Rosie’s body in the boot of a car which they then disposed of – but does that mean one of them killed her? Was one the father of her child?

Pirie gets her flatmate River to chase up some DNA leads, then confronts podcaster Bel, who it turns out has mountains of evidence; Bel points out that if not for her, the investigation might never have been revived. Certainly the three suspects are beginning to panic, and get together to try to agree on a new plan. One of them, Ziggy (Alec Newman) has a flashback to meeting Rosie at the party – so she did turn up after all, but who was she after?

Things take a not unexpected turn when Ziggy is killed in a hit-and-run – but who did it? His mates, to shut him up? Rosie’s vengeful brothers? Or podcaster Bel, whose background story we barely believe? Things get twistier next week. 

The plot so far has been satisfyingly compelling – our theory at this stage is that the original police investigation was deliberately botched to conceal some unpleasant truths. 

But the bigger question is, do we think that Karen Pirie is a compelling character? Well, so far, other than her having an unsatisfactory sex life, a bumbag and a fruity flat-mate, River Wilde (Emer Kenny, also the series’ writer and executive producer), we don’t know much about Karen. Emer Kenny describes her as being a cross between Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect and Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality – a combination of humour, toughness and rebellion.

Will we fall in love with Karen Pirie in the same way we have with, say, Vera Stanhope or Jane Tennison? She’s made a good wee start, but has a fair way to go. 

Chris Jenkins

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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

Karen Pirie: ITV confirms transmission date

ITV’s adaptation of Val McDermid’s Karen Pirie books has received its transmission date. And it’s just around the corner.

This three-part series is based on ‘Queen Of Crime’ McDermid’s first Karen Pirie novel The Distant Echo, and in the first episode Karen (played by Lauren Lyle) is tasked with reopening a historic murder investigation that has been the subject of a provocative true crime podcast.

When teenager Rosie Duff (Anna Russell-Martin) was found brutally murdered in the Scottish university town of St Andrews in 1996, suspicion fell on the three drunken students who were discovered at the scene of the crime, claiming to have found her body; Sigmund ‘Ziggy’ Malkiewicz (Jhon Lumsden) Tom ‘Weird’ Mackie (Jack Hesketh) and Alex Gilbey (BuomTihngang). But with a lack of forensic evidence, no charges were brought and the police investigation floundered.

Twenty-five years on, someone appears to be willing to risk everything to keep the secrets surrounding the case hidden. Do the three men know more than they previously revealed?

Karen Pirie: Sunday 25th September, 8pm, ITV

ITV announces cast for Val McDermid adaptation Karen Pirie

Some time ago we reported that Val McDermid’s DS Karen Pirie series would be getting the ITV treatment.

Now we know more details, including who will play the title role.

The three-part series is based on McDermid’s first Karen Pirie novel The Distant Echo, and in the first episode Karen is tasked with reopening an historic murder investigation that has been the subject of a provocative true crime podcast. 

Outlander actress, Lauren Lyle, will play Pirie.

When teenager Rosie Duff was found brutally murdered in the Scottish university town of St Andrews in 1996, suspicion fell on the three drunken students who were discovered at the scene of the crime, claiming to have found her body; Sigmund ‘Ziggy’ Malkiewicz, Tom ‘Weird’ Mackie and Alex Gilbey. But with a lack of forensic evidence, no charges were brought and the police investigation floundered. 

Twenty-five years on, someone appears to be willing to risk everything to keep the secrets surrounding the case hidden. Do the three men know more than they previously revealed? How flawed was the original investigation? And can Karen uncover the truth of what happened to Rosie that fateful night?

No word on a transmission date yet, but this looks ready to begin production very soon.

ITV commissions adaptation of Val McDermid’s Karen Pirie novels

Val McDermid’s series of cold case investigations, Karen Pirie (w/t) has been commissioned by ITV from the producers of Line of Duty and Bodyguard, World Productions.

Adapted by Emer Kenny Karen Pirie is based on the novel, The Distant Echo, the first in a series of best-selling novels about the young Scottish female detective set in the beautiful Scottish university town of St. Andrew’s.

Karen is a refreshingly normal and charmingly unfashionable young woman – slick, maverick cop she is not – but her quick mouth and ingenuity make her an impressive investigator. Following her promotion to Police Scotland’s Historic Cases Unit, Karen is tasked with reopening the investigation into a murder that has been the subject of a provocative true-crime podcast. When teenage barmaid Rosie Duff was stabbed to death in 1995, suspicion fell on the three drunken students who discovered her body. But despite police suspicion, the boys were never charged.

Nearly 25 years on, DS Karen Pirie is determined to uncover what happened that fateful night. Do the men know more than they previously revealed? When Karen uncovers flaws in the initial investigation, she finds herself in conflict with the very officers who led the original hunt for the killer.

There’s no news on casting yet, so when we get more news, you’ll get it too…