ITV crime drama Karen Pirie: How many episodes are there and when is it on?

All you need to know about the new ITV crime drama Karen Pirie

Lauren Lyle as Detective Karen Pirie in ITV's Karen Pirie
(Image credit: ITV)

It might be Rosie Duff who turned up dead, but Karen Pirie is killing it as the detective trying to solve the cold case.

Crime drama is a saturated genre on television screens, and finding excellent crime drama can sometimes be like looking for gold dust. ITV’s Karen Pirie - played by a perfectly pitched Lauren Lyle, is breaking boundaries. As a young, female detective, Karen doesn’t have a dark and brooding past - nor does she have a closet full of secrets she’s always trying to prevent toppling out. She’s straightforward and relatable, and the show has avoided so many stereotypical tropes usually involved in detective TV. So good is the series, viewers are hoping for lots of episodes to look forward to - we’ve got you covered with exactly how many there are, and when to find them. There's also the other unavoidable question of what exactly is going on with that bum bag Karen is never seen without?

Other burning questions about the show include what is Karen Pirie based on, and where is it filmed - for those needing those answers, we have them. For those who just can't wait to find out who killed Rosie Duff, we have the Karen Pirie ending explained - there will be huge spoilers! For more crime drama, Jed Mercurio is behind ITV drama Payback. We’ve uncovered everything you need to know about the six-part crime thriller.

How many episodes of Karen Pirie are there?

There are 3 episodes of Karen Pirie, and each episode is two hours long. This is unusual for ITV, who would ordinarily have hour-long episodes running over several weeks, or a standalone feature length adaptation. Actress Emer Kenny who adapted Val McDermid’s original source material - novel The Distant Echo - into Karen Pirie, spoke to Radio Times about this break from the usual format. The actress also stars alongside Lauren Lyle in the series, as Pirie’s best friend and forensic archaeologist River Wilde.

Kenny explained that ITV had originally wanted her to cover a single book per two hour episode. Her response was “the original book was 600 pages long or something. And I was just, like, 'If I do that, it will just be plot, there will be no character, there will be no texture, there'll be no humour...' and humour is so important to me."

She continued to add, “I've been a comedy actress for a long time and I find it really difficult to write anything that doesn't have some element of gags and jokes in it. So I said, 'I just don't think it's going to fit, I don't think it's going to work', and so I ended up pitching the way that I did it, and they were happy with it”.

When is Karen Pirie on TV?

Karen Pirie is on TV every Sunday evening at 8pm. However, the first two episodes have now aired, leaving the final remaining episode to air at 8pm on Sunday October 9. For those who couldn’t wait for the remaining episodes when the first aired on September 25, the second two episodes were immediately added to ITV Hub when it finished airing. This means the third episode is currently available on the catch-up streamer for anyone who needs to know how the show ends.

Writer Emer Kenny shared to her Twitter account that a clear divide has existed between those eager to binge the show all in one hit, and others who prefer to wait for weekly episodes to land. Sharing some pictures of the series being filmed, She said “The response to Karen Pirie so far has been magic. Thank you so much to the all-night binge watchers (@ITVHub now!), the armchair detectives with their madcap theories, the patient ones waiting weekly for a new ep…”.

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Karen Pirie bum bag: What are the contents?

Karen Pirie's bum bag contains actress Lauren Lyle's microphone pack, Lauren teased as she admitted the other contents of the mysterious bum bag that her character Karen Pirie is never seen without, are being kept a closely guarded secret for the time being.

The detective clearly has a “look”. This includes boots, sensible trousers rolled up at the ankle, a collection of sweater-vests, and the now infamous bum bag. Actress Lauren Lyle was asked by Bustle if she could reveal the contents of the bum bag, as viewers were becoming distracted in thinking about it.

On Karen’s general fashion sense Lauren said “I kind of wanted her to be accidentally fashionable. She sort of isolates herself into this sort of strange dress code, and it feels like her uniform.” On the bum bag, she added viewers will have to wait and see, saying “My mic pack was in there, but there are other things. That is the mystery”.

One fan tweeted about the bum bag saying “What's in that bum bag #KarenPirie I need to know!” While another added “She’s got me searching Amazon for bum bags, and I haven’t worn one of those since the eighties”.

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Who is the podcaster in Karen Pirie?

Podcaster Bel Richmond in Karen Pirie is played by Rakhee Thakrar. Bel plays a big part in getting Rosie Duff’s case reopened, when she insinuates it wasn’t properly investigated due to victim blaming.

If you’re wondering where you’ve seen actress Rakhee Thakrar before, She is best known for the role of Shabnam Masood in EastEnders, and as Emily Sands in Netflix comedy-drama Sex Education. The Guardian referred to the character of Bel as “a fabulously irritating creation, played by Rakhee Thakrar, hopefully enjoying the change from her more usual good-girl roles”.

With no evidence, Bel implicates the three students never named for legal reasons, who were found dripping with blood at the crime scene. One police officer announces “some woke millennial’s found a microphone”, referring to Bel and her podcast, and it’s agreed Karen Pirie will lead the investigation into Rosie’s murder, as having a woman a the helm will tick some boxes - Karen later discovers she has even been given the nickname “ticker” by some staff because of this.

Rakhee Thakrar as podcaster Bel Richmond in ITV's Karen Pirie

(Image credit: ITV)

Karen Pirie: Reviews

Reviews so far for Karen Pirie have been overwhelmingly positive.

Sean O’Grady from The Independent gave the series 4 stars out of 5. He said “This Tartan Noir drama lifts itself above the usual run of these cold case thrillers because the story is told in a refreshingly cohesive way – there are relatively few annoyingly random flashbacks and bewilderingly disjointed series. There’s a discipline about the scripting that is curiously absent from too many others of the kind. The writers have understood that they really don’t have to make things too confusing for the jaded viewer slumped in front of a screen”.

Anita Singh from The Telegraph also offered 4 out of 5 stars. She said “The detective charged with investigating is DS Karen Pirie, portrayed in an appealing natural performance by Lauren Lyle. It’s quite refreshing to have a lead character in a police drama who is quite junior and doesn’t just stride around being either loud and bolshy or icily efficient in a Jigsaw trouser suit”.

Abha Shah from the Evening Standard was one of the few reviewers less positive about the show, saying “It’s a decent enough plot but the execution is as bungled as the police work Pirie finds herself uncovering. There’s an element of finesse that’s missing, a shame considering the production team’s CV. Weighty subjects are being tackled - societal misogyny and victim-blaming, small town racism, trial by social media, vigilantism and the biggie, systematic police abuse and failures - but none hit home”.

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Lucy Wigley
Parenting writer - contributing

Lucy is a mum-of-two, multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ of experience writing about parenting, family life, and TV. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and sharing why you - and your kids - should watch them.