Skip to main content

Lauren Beukes’ book The Shining Girls is the inspiration behind Apple TV+‘s Shining Girls. Watching the crime thriller, many people are curious about who Beukes’ character Harper (Jamie Bell) is based on. It turns out a real-life murder and a suggestion on Twitter inspired the author’s book and subsequent Apple TV+ series.

[SPOILER ALERT: Spoilers ahead for Shining Girls]. 

Elisabeth Moss looks on as Kirby in 'Shining Girls' Season 1 Episode 4: 'Attribution'
Elisabeth Moss in ‘Shining Girls’ Season 1 Episode 4: ‘Attribution’ | Apple TV+

Harper is a time-traveling serial killer inspired by Twitter

Harper Curtis, who can manipulate time, tortures Elisabeth Moss’ character Kirby in Apple TV+’s Shining GirlsA real serial killer wasn’t the basis for Beukes’ Harper, but a tweet did inspire his ability to travel through time. 

“I got the idea on Twitter,” Beukes told Lightspeed Magazine. She elaborated: 

“I was messing around … and I threw it out in the middle of a conversation. It was banter with a random stranger that I should write a book about a time-traveling serial killer. I was like, ‘No, wait! … that would be amazing. I could do something really fun with that.'” 

Lauren Beukes’ ‘The Shining Girls’ was inspired by a friend’s murder 

Harper may not be based on a real serial killer, but a real murder did inspire The Shining Girls book. “[My cleaning lady’s] 23-year-old daughter … was murdered by her boyfriend,” Beukes told the outlet.

“Her name was Thomokazi Zazayokwe. Her abusive boyfriend stabbed her, poured boiling water over her head, and then he locked his shack and walked away.”

Zazayokwe was found five days later by police, who rushed her to the hospital. “She had third-degree burns that had become infected, there were flies thick on her skin, and she was in absolute agony,” Beukes continued. “She was in and out of the hospital over the next four months until finally, she died from her injuries.” 

‘The Shining Girls’ book is cathartic for Lauren Beukes 

Wanting justice for Zazayokwe, Beukes helped the family seek legal counsel so they could go after the boyfriend. However, the case got thrown out due to a lack of evidence. 


‘Shining Girls’ Season 1 Episode 2 Recap: ‘Evergreen’

“The prosecutor … told us that he couldn’t prosecute the case,” said Beukes. “He showed us the single sheet of paper that was the police file, and he said, ‘This is the worst bit of investigating I’ve ever seen. The only person they bothered to interview was the victim, and she’s dead. This guy can stand up in court, and he can say absolutely anything he wants, and he’ll get away with it. I will have to believe him because I have no evidence to the contrary.'”

Bothered by the lack of justice, Beukes called upon her writer friends to help draw attention to the case. “Because I’m middle class, I have a voice and I know how to use it, and I have friends who are journalists, I got the story covered by major newspapers,” she said. “I did manage to get the case reopened.”

Despite Beukes’ efforts, the family did not want to face their daughter’s death again, so they dropped the case. For Buekes, “[The Shining Girls] is, in part, a way of exorcising that … [and] the terrible violence against women and men that we see in society.”

Watch episodes of Shining Girls on Apple TV+.