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The Rossland Mystery Booster

In 1992, a classified ad appeared in The Mystery Review, a now-defunct quarterly magazine, that read as follows:


Put Rossland, British Columbia in your mystery story and you'll earn a bonus from a BC booster! Here's the deal ... a cash payment for publicizing Rossland in a published (independent publisher, not self-published) mystery book, according to the size of the boost as per the following sliding scale:


If you mention Rossland … $25

If your prose demonstrates some research went into your Rossland writing … $50

If Rossland figures in the story … $100

If Rossland is the location for the major action … $250


The anonymous booster has authorized The Mystery Review to adjudicate on all takers. A published sample of the work must be submitted. Send to Rossland Booster Bonus, c/o The Mystery Review, P.O. Box 233, Colborne, ON K0K 1S0.


Two payments were made. The first was to author Ron Weymen, who received $100 for his story The Case of the Smiling Buddha, published in his 1994 book Sherlock Holmes: Travels in the Canadian West.


In the book, Holmes and Dr. Watson are touring BC as guests of noted jurist Sir Matthew Begbie and include Rossland on their itinerary. The only real-life locations mentioned are Sourdough Alley and the Chinese Freemasons Lodge. Holmes barely breaks a sweat in solving a murder over a mining claim and impresses Watson with his ability to read Chinese.


However, there are a couple of problems. First, Weyman thought Rossland was in the Cariboo (or maybe Holmes and company just read the map upside down). Second, the story is set in 1892, a year after Holmes’ supposed death at Reichenbach Falls. Rossland didn’t yet exist in 1892, at least not by that name.


Sherlock Holmes as he might have looked on Columbia Ave. in Rossland in the 1890s.

What’s odd is that Weyman knew nothing about the Mystery Booster’s offer when he set his story in Rossland. As Mystery Review editor Barbara Davey told me in 2001, “Both Weymen and his publisher (whom we contacted in order to locate Mr. Weymen) were extremely surprised to learn of the offer.”


A second payment of $25 was made to Robert E. Smith of Eastham, Mass., for a fictional letter to the editor published in the magazine’s Winter 1995 edition. After confessing to an imaginary murder, he concluded: “I’ve always wanted to write a book and now that I have the time, I can do a fictionalized account of how my wife died just because she wanted to visit Rossland.”


The same issue of the magazine contained a brief history of Rossland. Davey said the ad was discontinued in 1997. “The anonymous booster (a former resident of Rossland) never publicly declared his identity,” she said.


So the Mystery Booster’s original goal of promoting Rossland in print wasn’t a great success. But he did give us an unsolved mystery.

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