Scottish Detective Series 'Karen Pirie' to Premiere on BritBox

Lauren Lyle as DS Karen Pirie in Karen Pirie

You may not have read Val McDermid's Scottish set mystery series, affectionately known as "Tartan Noir," but you've most likely encountered a TV adaptation or two. Her best-selling Wire in The Blood series was adapted as a three-part mystery back in 2002, starring a (very young) Robson Green (Grantchester) as clinical psychologist Dr. Tony Hill and Hermione Norris (Spooks) as DCI Carol Jordan. Her standalone dual timeline novel, A Place of Execution, starring Lee Ingleby (Inspector George Gently) as DI George Bennett, aired on Masterpiece in 2008. She's also the writer behind Traces, which recently broadcast its second season.

Now there's another new series based on her work heading to TV, based on her Karen Pirie series, which she's been writing since 2003. Primarily set in the Scottish university town of St. Andrews, the titular Pirie is part of Police Scotland's Historic Cases Unit. The series begins with the reopening of a 25-year-old cold case after a popular True Crime podcast does a season looking into all the clues the original investigation missed. ITV originally commissioned the series in August 2021, and it is currently scheduled to debut on ITV in September. 

Like the previous series based on McDermid's work, Karen Pirie was commissioned as a three-episode limited series. The series is being produced by World Productions, which is the same outfit behind the Jed Mercutio hits Line Of Duty and Bodyguard. The series was announced with the lead already attached, Lauren Lyle, best known for Outlander, in the title role. Emer Kenny (Harlots) is the adapting screenwriter for the series and will also be pulling double duty as an actress, taking the secondary lead as Karen's BFF, River Wilde.

This is what I’ve been doing for the past 3 years! And I couldn’t be prouder of it. New crime drama #KarenPirie, written by me, based on books by @valmcdermid, starring @LlaurenLyle & coming to @itv and @BritBox_US very soon.

— Emer Kenny (@MissEmerKenny) July 29, 2022

Here's the show's synopsis:

DS Karen Pirie is a truly contemporary and brilliant young Scottish detective with a quick mouth and a tenacious desire for the truth. When a historic murder in St Andrews becomes the subject of a provocative true crime podcast, DS Karen Pirie is tasked with heading up the case. 25 years after Rosie Duff’s body was discovered abandoned on the Cathedral grounds, no one has ever faced justice. Interrogating the past Karen uncovers shocking fresh evidence and a potential mystery suspect. But when suspects start coming under attack the cold case becomes a live investigation. Is someone willing to risk everything for revenge, or to keep the secrets surrounding the case hidden? Will Karen finally find Rosie’s killer before it’s too late?

Lyle and Kenny are joined by a talented cast, with Zach Wyatt (Blithe Spirit) as DS Phil Parhatka and Chris Jenks (Sex Education) as DC Jason "The Mint" Murray, her main crew. Other co-stars include Anna Russell-Martin (Annika), Jhon Lumsden (Pancake), Jack Hesketh (Beautiful Disaster), and Buom Tihngang (Death In Paradise). Also listed as guest stars are Michael Schaeffer (The Salisbury Poisonings), Ariyon Bakare (His Dark Materials), and Alec Newman (Unforgotten). Gareth Bryn (Hidden) directed all three installments. 

BritBox has not yet announced a premiere date for Karen Pirie, but with the show airing in September overseas, it is expected to come to the U.S. in October.


Ani Bundel has been blogging professionally since 2010. A DC native, Hufflepuff, and Keyboard Khaleesi, she spends all her non-writing time taking pictures of her cats. Regular bylines also found on MSNBC, Paste, Primetimer, and others. 

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