Is ‘Mosaic’ Based On A True Story? The HBO Thriller Is Unlike Any Other Murder Mystery

Claudette Barius/HBO

The new HBO project by the prolific director Steven Soderbergh is taking some major risks. Mosaic premieres Jan. 22 and is a five-part series that focuses on the investigation into the murder of children's author Olivia Lake (Sharon Stone). Spoilers ahead! Olivia Lake was found dead years later, presumed to have been killed by a suitor of hers, but those close to the investigation suspect that the wrong man may have been arrested for her murder. While the events portrayed in Mosaic aren't true, the central crime is eerily similar to a crime that lit up UK headlines in the past few years.

Steven Soderbergh revealed to Vulture that when he and co-writer Ed Solomon started working on the show, they "culled together a couple of different real-life events" to find inspiration for the show. While the director didn't go into much detail about the true crime that inspired the show, the fact that the central figure of the case is a children's author seems particularly significant.

While Mosaic (art direction by Michelle C. Harmon) isn't based entirely on one specific case, the show premieres just a year after the high-profile investigation into the murder of children's author Helen Bailey. Soderbergh hasn't explicitly stated what his inspirations for Mosaic are, but this case may perhaps have played a role in inspiring the show's central character and crime. Bustle has reached out to HBO for comment, but has not received a response as of publication time.

Per the BBC, Bailey's fianceé Ian Stewart was convicted of murdering the author, known for the Electra Brown series of young adult novels. (Stewart pleaded not guilty and maintained his innocence throughout.) The jury in the case was told that Bailey was given enough sleeping pills to put her into a “stupefied form and then most likely suffocated," according to The Guardian. Prosecutors argued that the major motivating factor in the murder was financial gain, as Stewart stood to inherit their shared house and "substantial financial advantage" after Bailey's death. Authorities discovered Bailey's remains at the couple's home, three months after Stewart had reported her missing.

While the details of the Bailey case do not closely resemble the murder mystery in the center of Mosaic, the biggest coincidence is that the victim in both cases was a children's author who was allegedly murdered by someone close to them. However, Soderbergh has said that when it came to crafting Mosaic, story was not the first thing on his mind.

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While Mosaic is centered around the murder of Olivia Lake, the show is an example of a story being written to fit a specific structure. Mosaic is adapted for Podopp, an app that bills itself as a "film experience." The Mosaic app features the same actors, crew, and storyline as the HBO series, but is presented in a non-linear format that allows the viewer to follow the story from a specific perspective. Soderbergh explained to Vulture that "something with a murder in the middle of it felt like the obvious, best choice" when attempting to work within ambitious new storytelling structure.

While the structure and the app may be the most noteworthy things about Mosaic, it's worth considering how real crimes influenced the creation of the story. The whole project invites audiences to look at one crime from every possible angle. Solomon explained to Techcrunch when discussing the app, "Every villain is the hero of their own story." Perspective matters.

Mosaic is the kind of show that pushes the audience to get inside the heads of victims, suspects, law enforcement, and all of the people who are affected by a single murder — making this overall fictional story feel all too real.