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Set and filmed in St Andrews and wider Fife, Karen Pirie is a cold-case detective drama that brings Val McDermid’s novel, A Distant Echo, to the screen.

Fife author Val McDermid was closely involved in the production about young detective Karen Pirie who is re-examining the murder of a young woman some 25 years in the past. The production team brought to the project their experience on Line of Duty and The Bodyguard.

TayScreen was delighted to help the production that got to work in St Andrews in 2021. It features iconic locations such as St Andrews Cathedral, the harbour and the university and included road closures and over-night filming.

Leading actors on location are Lauren Lyle playing Pirie, Chris Jenks as DC Jason Murray, Zach Wyatt as DS Phil Parhatka and Emer Kenny doing double duty as Pirie’s friend River Wilde and as showrunner/writer.

Executive Producer, Simon Heath spoke about filming in St. Andrews:

“It was [challenging], particularly in the middle of a pandemic, but the town was really welcoming to us. We made sure we had a significant chunk of time to shoot all the key exterior scenes in St Andrews. This was vital – the setting of St Andrews is unique – it’s a university town, which attracts a lot of posh English students, creating a potentially volatile town and gown mix. The story trades on this unique and local setting. But equally Val’s story is universal and -reflected in the amount of interest the show has attracted from international buyers. The best crime stories travel – Val is the master of them, and Emer has adapted this one brilliantly. The trick is to root the story in its unique St Andrews setting, while never losing sight of the story’s universal appeal.”


Image courtesy of DC Thomson.

Writer Val McDermid was delighted with the results – she says:

“I was nervous, I’ll be honest, you always are. The last thing you want is for someone to adapt your work badly – I’ve had friends who have had that experience and it’s been really traumatic for them. I knew that wasn’t going to happen with Karen Pirie, because I’d seen enough already, so I wasn’t afraid, but you’re always a bit apprehensive, not just for yourself but the whole team. Luckily, I thought it was great! It looks tremendous, and the differentiation between the two time periods is so clear when you’re watching it, but nothing slaps you round the face, it’s really well made. I was so happy for everybody involved that it was great and I think people will love it. One of the things you notice very quickly in screen adaptations is that sometimes a single panning shot can tell you something that has taken me four pages to say – there’s an economy of narration that you just can’t do on the page. A lot of that comes down to direction and I think the direction is terrific on this.”

The series premiered on ITV on 25th September 2022 and can be watched on the ITV Hub.