The Lies That Bind – DarkHorse Trilogy, Book 1 by Ed Protzel

edIn this darkly ironic, multiple-mystery/drama, even the past cannot suffocate the insatiable human heart.

Driven by overwhelming longings, both the outliers and the establishment in this labyrinthine-plotted tale refuse to accept the roles society has forced upon them.

In 1859, Durksen Hurst, a visionary charlatan on the run, encounters a dozen hungry slaves stranded in the Mississippi wilds. Led by the deceptively simple-looking Big Josh, together, they agree to build their own egalitarian plantation, with Hurst acting as figurehead “master” to hoodwink the town. But wise Big Josh fears that Hurst’s grandiose schemes may doom them all to the hangman’s noose.

In the town, the reclusive widow, Marie Brussard French, manipulates the region’s bankers and cotton brokers, everyone…except her frail, rebellious heir-apparent, Devereau. Driven by unbearable loneliness to mad acts, Devereau threatens to expose the family’s own tenuous façade—which would prove fatal to the Frenches.

Meanwhile, Antoinette DuVallier, a beautiful, Cassandra-like fugitive from New Orleans with mysterious ties to the Frenches, arrives on her own desperate mission. Her overpowering presence detonates long-repressed conflicts, unleashing a devastating upheaval of fire and blood that tears asunder the once-sleepy hamlet.

As the story’s tangled webs of deceit unravel, each startling plot twist and cathartic revelation shines a fresh light on what it means to be a man, a woman, free or enslaved—indeed, what it means to be human.

Title: The Lies That Bind – DarkHorse Trilogy, Book 1

Genre: Historical Novel (U.S. antebellum South)

A review or two:

Talk about imagination! Not only does The Lies That Bind paint a gritty picture of the Antebellum South just before the Civil War, but it does so by creating a fascinating plot with more unforeseen twists than Meryl Streep has accents. The well-executed narrative brings rich characters to life, but like the best storytellers, the author leaves enough room for nuance so readers are able to make the story their own unique experience. This is a page – turner that leaves you feeling enriched about an era of American history.


What a first novel! It seems that for the past few years, well-written novels fall into one of two categories: Either they provide a stroll through a pleasant path, a comforting respite from the madness of the human situation, or they leave me brow furrowed, exhausted from the effort of concentrating on those same problems.

Here’s a novel that entertains with its gamesmanship: The central conceit of playing chess requires careful attention, but attention that doesn’t require the reader to burn brain cells.

Main characters play consequential games of chess, but more exhilarating is the game between the story (the author) and the reader. The former leads the reader along an easy route, only to discover that it has suddenly turned a right angle. While the reader believes only a pawn appears vulnerable, suddenly the board spins and the reader has at least to chuckle. (This reader broke into a giggle when he saw the sudden new direction.)

The book takes the conventions of black and white in chess and turns them on their heads. A bishop flips to become a queen; pawns become knights.

And once the game ends (sort of: This novel marks the start with two more promised to fill out a trilogy), the reader realizes there’s a deeper, more significant set of themes to consider. Having slid easily along, enjoyed some hilarious twists, delightful direction changes, startling shifts, the reader realizes there is more here than a game. The story has dipped deeply into the inherent conflicts of the living out of The American Dream.



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ed2Author bio:

The Lies That Bind is the first novel in Ed Protzel’s planned DarkHorse Trilogy. Ed has written five screenplays for feature film and developed projects for Hollywood. He has a Master’s in English from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Ed lives in St. Louis, Missouri, where he teaches college English.


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