Is ‘The Sinner’ Based On A True Story? Jessica Biel’s Mystery Series Starts With An Unspeakable Murder

When your series begins with a woman stabbing a man in broad daylight in front of hundreds of witnesses, you’re not really crafting a “whodunnit” so much as a “whydunnit.”

So why did Cora murder that man on the beach? It would be helpful if The Sinner is based on a true story, so that viewers could understand the motivations of the violent woman played by Seventh Heaven actress Jessica Biel. Does the solution to the show’s mystery lie in the accounts of a real-life crime?

These days, it can be pretty difficult to separate the stories inspired by true events from the stories that originated in a writers room. It’s no secret that television is currently obsessed with crime, with docu-series (Making A Murderer and The Keepers), true crime recreations (American Crime Story, Law & Order: True Crime), and original crime stories (True Detective, American Crime) flooding the airwaves, blurring the line between fact and fiction. So which kind is The Sinner?

Well, unfortunately for the more impatient, viewers will have to wait for The Sinner to unspool the solution to its own mystery, since the USA series is not based on the events of any real-life murder. But even without any actual historical context, there is one way viewers could find out why Cora “dunnit” before the finale airs in eight weeks.

SOURCE: Peter Kramer/USA Network

That’s because, while The Sinner may not be based on a true story, the series isbased on something; that would be the 1999 novel of the same name by German author Petra Hammesfahr. In reviews for The Sinner, Hammesfahr has been compared to American authors Stephen King — for her bestseller status in her native country and the book’s compelling, bloody mystery — and Patricia Highsmith (Strangers On A Train) — for her psychological insights into a dark and disturbed mind.

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