Welcome Guest R.J. Lee


I met R.J. two years ago at the SOKY Book Fest when we were on a panel together. R.J. told me about his new series with Kensington at the time so I’m delighted to welcome him to the Wickeds.

R.J.: The second novel in my cozy mystery series, PLAYING THE DEVIL, was released at the end of February, but, as it turned, out, the devil was in the details.  The details being Covid-19.  No, the virus does not appear in the plot of this Deep South mystery connected to the game of bridge.  How prescient would that have been?  Instead, most of my book tour got cancelled due to safety reasons—mine and those of the book store owners, librarians and festival directors who did not want to take any chances.

My very last event was at a federal library in Fort Knox, Kentucky, which usually drew 30 to 40 patrons; but even back then on March 11th patrons were rightly skittish about group appearances and only 3 people showed up. Such is life for an author in the era of the pandemic. Instead, I SIP (shelter in place) and write on the fourth novel in my series. Actually, authors SIP during ordinary times as well. We live in other universes and hear (pardon me Truman Capote) other voices in other rooms.

Readers have asked me how I came up with the idea of the BRIDGE TO DEATH MYSTERIES, and I tell them that I have always enjoyed the game of contract bridge as a cerebral exercise. As a lifelong fan of Agatha Christie’s work, I recall CARDS ON THE TABLE, in which a murder is committed during a game of bridge; but I do not recall a series in which every novel contains a murder related to the game in some fashion or other.

In PLAYING THE DEVIL, my amateur female sleuth and reporter, Wendy Winchester, whose previous bridge club was wiped out by a quadruple poisoning in GRAND SLAM MURDERS, forms her own new club at the Rosalie, Mississippi Country Club. There, she encounters the most obnoxious hurdle possible in the form of a toxic male contributor who is, at once, a sexist, xenophobe, homophobe and bully. Needless to say, Brent Ogle is the one who is found clubbed with a bartender’s pestle while he is soaking in inebriated fashion in a hot tub. There is no shortage of suspects, as the man was an equal-opportunity offender and former college and pro quarterback who has never withdrawn from his addiction to the roar of the crowd. Wendy has her work cut out for her, as there are too many suspects with an abundance of opportunities to have committed the murder. But with help from her police detective boyfriend and police chief father, she is able to discover the who and how in time to prevent another death.

Readers: Although you do not have to play bridge to follow the plot or solve the crime, have you played the game yourself or do you know someone who does?

AUTHOR BIO: R. J. Lee follows in his father’s footsteps, those of R. Keene Lee, who wrote detective and fighter pilot stories in New York after the War. R. J. obtained a B.A. at the University of the South (Sewanee) where he studied Creative Writing under Andrew Lytle, then the editor of the SEWANEE REVIEW. Lee has had fourteen novels published by small presses, Putnam and Kensington, and is currently under contract to Kensington-for two more BRIDGE TO DEATH MYSTERIES to be released in 2021 and 2022. He is a native of Natchez, Ms, currently living in Oxford, Ms.

24 Thoughts

  1. Welcome to the blog, RJ! I love playing cards, but I’m not a bridge player. I do know several – one is a mystery author – and I’m going to alert them to your series.

    1. Thanks for the warm welcome, Edith. Delighted to be in such great company.

    2. Thank you, Edith. I love networking with other cozy mystery writers.

  2. Ah, CARDS ON THE TABLE. Great book.

    Bridge is a complete mystery to me. As are most card games, several of which I enjoy and none of which I’m especially good at.

    1. Hi, Liz! Good news is that you do not have to play/be an expert at bridge to follow the plot or solve the crime as my heroine, Wendy Winchester does. There is a shocking reveal at the end. Most of my readers tell me they did not see it coming.

    1. Hi, Sandy! You won’t be lost in the plot, however. One of my readers told me she did a face palm at the reveal when Wendy Winchester solves the crime. My reader said, “I can’t believe I didn’t think of that!”

  3. Welcome, RJ! My parents were avid bridge players and until the pandemic struck my mom still was. I was too impatient to learn. We always played lots of other card games.

    1. Sherry: I belonged to two bridge clubs here in the Oxford area. But both have taken a hit since the pandemic struck.

    2. I, too, have played many card games over the years. I learned bridge at fifteen, but it’s still my favorite. And so, I have written/will be writing a cozy series of bridge mysteries.

  4. Some former coworkers tried to teach me how to play bridge once. That was our one and only session. I was completely lost. Your book sounds great. I will keep my fingers crossed you have an amazing turnout at your next in-person event, whenever that may be!

    1. Thank you, Maria. The thing about bridge is that it is such a social game. I miss my friends as much as I miss the actual game.

  5. Welcome to the Wickeds, RJ. I played a lot of bridge in college but hardly any since. The protagonist in my Jane Darrowfield, Professional Busybody series plays bridge. I wrote the first draft of the bidding scenes but then had them reviewed by a friend who plays regularly. Good thing. He changed every one of them.

    1. Haha! I have kept bidding scenes to a minimum because the inside joke is that my reporter heroine, Wendy Winchester, keeps trying to learn how to play bridge in the series. In the first novel, she’s about to become a sub for an exclusive club of four wealthy widows who are all poisoned. In the second novel, she forms her own club now that the original one was murdered. She eventually gets to the point that she is able to teach others. But, go figure, murders keep happening…

  6. I’ve never played bridge. Mostly because I know of no one that plays to teach me. Hubby and I do enjoy card games.

    “PLAYING THE DEVIL” sounds like a great book and one that I would definitely enjoy reading.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Hi, Kay! You won’t miss a thing reading PLAYING THE DEVIL because you haven’t played bridge. Instead, you will get caught up in the cast of characters and all the suspects who end up wandering around the country club when a storm takes the power out. Bwaah-hahh-hahh! Our villain has no redeeming qualities, so no one is sorry to see him clubbed over the head in a hot tub! Good reading!

  7. I am an avid bridge player! Have played since I was a child when I was recruited to be the “fourth” in family games and I always asked to be “dummy.” LOL. Before COVID, I played 3 or 4 times a week. Sadly missing those games. Didn’t know about this series, but can’t wait to start reading.

    1. Hi, there, cttiger! I belonged to two bridge groups before the pandemic. I do miss the socializing and the thrill of getting that special hand. You will get a bigger kick out of the series since you are a player, but I keep reassuring others that they will be able to read along and follow just fine otherwise. The first novel, GRAND SLAM MURDERS, has a shocking reveal. At least 95% of my readers tell me so. The second, PLAYING THE DEVIL, has a double twist. Good reading!

  8. I love card games, games of all kind really, but I’ve never played bridge or known someone who did.

    1. Hi, Mark! You don’t have to play bridge to follow the plot or solve the crime, though. Bridge serves as a backdrop, a unifying theme. If you like Deep South mysteries and feisty young female sleuths, you will enjoy my series.

  9. After he retired, my brother learned to play bridge. Unfortunately he died in 2017. Dean James wrote at least 2 bridge mysteries as Honor Hartman but I only found one as an e-book. I still don’t understand bridge even after the book and Bob telling me about it. Of course, I also don’t knit, do crafts, etc. but I read cozy mysteries about them. Stay safe and well. Sally

    1. Hi, Sally! Sorry to hear of the loss of your brother. You will not have to play bridge to follow the plots or solve the crimes in my novels, however. If your mind works like my brilliant young female sleuth, you may be able to come up with the solution on your own. I write about my stomping grounds–the Deep South–with all its long-standing warts and eccentricities. A variety of characters–white, black, rich, poor, young, old–you’re sure to find someone you identify with, have known or would like to be friends with.

  10. I would always be the “dummy” because I haven’t a clue how bridge is played. 😉 However, the series sounds very interesting and fun to read.

    1. Haha! The ‘dummy’ is always the partner of the person that wins the ‘contract’ to make tricks. The dummy puts his or her hand down, and the partner plays it with his or her own hand. So, it’s just a term. But not to worry. You will like my Deep South, Mississippi River characters and their foibles. Bridge is in the background. In the foreground are a murder and loads of suspects who were wandering around in the dark at the country club when the loathsome victim was hit over the head while stewing in a hot tub. I hope you’ll have fun with my series. The third one will be out in late March of next year. And, no, the virus didn’t do it.

Comments are closed.