Karen Pirie Review: How Many Episodes Are There of Karen Pirie?

There is no fresh evidence to warrant a reconsideration of the 25-year-old unsolved murder of young barmaid Rosie Duff, but “some woke millennial’s discovered a microphone” – i.e., started a podcast – thus the top brass of Fife’s finest must act. When they assemble a team to reexamine the case, the optics dictate that the lead detective be a young woman. Enter Karen Pirie, the protagonist of the most recent adaptation of one of Val McDermid’s best-selling crime novels, The Distant Echo.

It’s such a relief when a criminal drama doesn’t fear being humorous. The great majority of them fall into the EastEnders trap of excluding humorous responses from characters too steeped in grim emotional/situational/café-based angst. You know, as humans naturally and unquestionably do. It’s quite strange and, in every way, makes our time together horribly and unnecessarily dull.

With three two-hour episodes, ITV’s Karen Pirie may be an unusually lengthy adaptation of a single book, but it simply soars. As expected from McDermid’s source material, the plot moves swiftly; it is meaty, well-paced, and surefooted.

The purposeful Pirie, portrayed by Outlander’s Lauren Lyle, is (again, refreshingly) a non-neurotic, inwardly untortured professional, as flawed as the next woman but not fatally defective, saddled with a dark personal secret, or possessing one defining trait in lieu of a personality.


The screenplay and Lyle meld resolve, self-assurance, and charisma in ideal proportions as she navigates the cold case, the politics around it, and the barriers thrown up by time, chance, and the murderer’s (apparently continued) desire to avoid being discovered.

Karen Pirie review
Karen Pirie review

Rosie’s body was discovered by three students who are now a surgeon, university professors, and an artist. Rosie was suffocated, but she died of blood loss from a stomach wound. The police interviewed them at the time, but they were never charged despite contradictions in their accounts.

They remain in contact in the present and are concerned by the case’s renewed attention. Bel, a podcaster (played by Rakhee Thakrar as a brilliantly annoying character, hopefully enjoying the change from her more typical good-girl parts), strongly implies that one or more are responsible for Duff’s likely rape and certain murder.

We follow Pirie and her even younger, eager-but-is-he-capable? son. Mint (since his surname is Murray and we are in Scotland), portrayed by Chris Jenks of Sex Education, as they gather old and fresh evidence. The first episode introduces an impressive variety of alternatives.

Was Rosie seeing one of the students when she snuck out of the pub to have an affair with a man she would not reveal to her friend and colleague bartender Iona? Who is the father of the kid she had three years prior to her death, and why did she tell her family that the child had died when it was actually adopted? Her brothers were and still are renowned as tough men; might they have killed her?

The inquiries continue: Is there any significance to the fact that Rosie was beaten in one location and then transported to the cathedral cemetery to die? Was it a ceremonial killing, a crime of passion, or a family tragedy? Where was the initial crime scene, where is the murder weapon, and why didn’t authorities conduct a more complete investigation at the time? Simple attrition (the case grew cold, the media lost interest, and the primary investigator was promoted), or misogyny (Bel’s podcast observes that, as an outgoing young woman with a clear sex life, Rosie was not the “ideal victim”? Or was it another factor?

Karen Pirie review
Karen Pirie review

Underlying the primary plot is Pirie’s budding friendship with DS Phil Parhatka, a colleague (Zach Wyatt). “Approach the shower with caution,” she advises. “It hasn’t seen a naked guy in a while,” which thickens the stew and, without being didactic, provides a means of exploring the racism and sexism permeating the force.


The final scene twists the kaleidoscope once again, and Pirie’s careful arrangement of hints, potential clues, and tentative speculations erupts, necessitating a fresh resolution.

Having seen all three episodes, I can confirm that the plot twists and turns continue to heighten the tension till the rewarding conclusion.

There is a late-story part that didn’t quite ring as genuine as the rest of the story, but a) you may not agree, and b) it seemed like a little price to pay for the rest of the story. Based on McDermid’s Tony Hill and Carol Jordan novels, Wire in the Blood ran for six seasons. On the basis of her debut performance, I wish for Karen Pirie at least as much, if not more.

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Karen Pirie Trailer


Is Karen Pirie Based on a Real-life Event?

Is Karen Pirie based on a real-life event? Karen Pirie is not based on a genuine story, despite the fact that the plot seems plausible. The ITV drama was adapted for television by actor and screenwriter Emer Kenny, who also acts as Karen’s best friend and flatmate River in the three-part series.

Will a Second Season of Karen Pirie Be Produced?

Karen Pirie has not yet been renewed for a second season, although executive producer Simon Heath and the rest of the team have “their fingers crossed.” Emer Kenny, the show’s scriptwriter, reiterated his attitude, stating that it will “ultimately depend on how the audience responds to the first season.”

How Many Episodes Are There of Karen Pirie?

Each of the three episodes of Karen Pirie is two hours in length. Typically, ITV would air hour-long episodes over the course of several weeks or a single feature-length version.

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