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Murder at the Columbarium

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Jed’s quiet life as caretaker of the San Francisco Columbarium is turned upside down when he comes upon a dead woman’s body and a crying baby just inside the gate. His search for answers thrusts him into a world of corruption, bigotry and drug trafficking and he becomes one of the principal suspects.

220 pages, Kindle Edition

Published September 23, 2018

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About the author

Emily Gallo

8 books11 followers
I View My Life In 3 Acts

Emily Kaufman was the girl growing up in Manhattan in the fifties and sixties. In the sixties and seventies, I attended Clark University and lived in San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and Seattle doing the hippie/peace/love/protest thing.

In the eighties and nineties, Emily Saur lived in Northampton, MA and Davis, CA and was the more conventional wife, mother of two, and elementary school teacher.

In 2006, I retired from teaching and became Emily Gallo when I married David, a professor of economics, and moved to Chico, CA to continue our journey. I started writing screenplays and television and moved into novels. David, Gracie (our Schillerhound), Savali (our cat) and I now divide our time between two and a half acres of gardens, orchards in Chico and a 750 square foot condo on the beach in Carpinteria, CA.

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Displaying 1 - 19 of 19 reviews
Profile Image for Karen.
Author 3 books21 followers
December 1, 2019
This book focuses on the Columbarium's caretaker Jed and how his life changes when finding a murdered young woman on the premises.

With "Murder at the Columbarium", Emily Gallo has created a well-elaborated and intriguing story about Jed and his friends. The story comprises a variety of characters with sufficient depth, interesting turns, food for thought, and a great flow. I was drawn into the story right away, close to Jed, his wife, their friends; captivated by what this story had to offer. I had a great time reading "Murder at the Columbarium". It is a memorable story; I enjoyed reading about Jed who is warm-hearted and determined.

This is for you if you like steady-paced mysteries, stories that let you follow along and inspire your own train of thoughts, as well as books you would like to read again because their stories are unforgettable.

Profile Image for Rosie Amber.
Author 0 books113 followers
November 8, 2019
Murder At The Columbarium is a relaxed paced contemporary mystery which is set in San Francisco.

Jed is the caretaker of the Columbarium which is a building with niches where funeral urns are stored. One morning he finds the body of a Pakistani woman inside the gates, and beside her a baby.

While the police investigate the murder, Jed takes it upon himself to also do some sleuthing. See here for full review https://wp.me/p2Eu3u-f52
Profile Image for Wendy Wanner.
Author 2 books8 followers
May 7, 2019
A well-crafted murder mystery that lays a trail of breadcrumbs.

Emily Gallo is a master at laying well-placed breadcrumbs to keep the plot twisting, the suspect list growing and the “who done it” moment a surprise until the very end. Murder at the Columbarium opens with Jed, caretaker at the Columbarium in San Francisco, finding an infant girl in the bushes beside her dead mother. Wanting to adopt the baby, Jed becomes consumed with finding the killer and learning the identity of little Aja.

But this story is much more than a simple one-dimensional mystery. The characters — ageing Jed and his wife Monica, their old friends Malcolm and Savali who need to re-home elderly residents when a retirement home gets shut down, and new friends like singer-weed grower Dutch and Juniper, the woman who runs his ranch — have flourishing lives of their own that flow along multiple story lines adding depth and connecting with readers on an emotional level. This novel will leave fans waiting for the next book in the series to revisit their favorite cast of characters.

The blending of the LGBTQ lifestyle, racism issues, drug cultures (both illegal and medical), death, and homage to death is natural and doesn’t feel forced or obvious. Hats off to Gallo for her masterful blending of multiple cultures in a modern city setting.

For readers who have not read the first book in the series, like me, the characters from the earlier book could have been introduced more naturally. Although characters like Finn and Nick were mentioned a couple of times, we never met them and I am unsure about their role in this novel. Also, the point of view does head hop, not enough to make the story hard to follow, but it was noticeable.

At times, Gallo tries too hard to bring the reader into the scene. Actions become mundane and conversation too literal, making the text read more like a screenplay rather than a novel.

Overall, the scenes I enjoyed most depicted Jed’s investigation and internal musings, and I’m hoping to see more of him in Gallo’s next novel, The Last Resort.

February 7, 2019
Once I started I couldn't put it down. It was well paced and didn't have a boring moment. The characters were so true to life and immediately endearing that I want to go to San Francisco to sit and have a cup of coffee with them. The new plot twists at every turn kept me turning pages wanting more. I can't wait to read more from this talented author
253 reviews7 followers
November 16, 2019

This is an interesting whodunnit story, which also has a number of other threads running through it.

Main Characters:

Jed Gibbons: Sixty-something African-American, curator of a Columbarium (a building where funeral urns are stored).

Monica: His wife, positively diagnosed with HIV.

Minor Characters:

Dutch: Sixty-something grower of legal weed.

Juniper: Dutch’s live-in companion, and overseer of his farming operations.

Macolm: Long-time friend of Jed and Monica.

Tony: Another friend, roughly the same age as Jed, who covers for him at the Columbarium when he needs to travel to investigate.


Jed arrives at work, and discovers the body of a Pakistani woman on the grounds, along with her still-breathing little baby girl. He immediately calls the police, and the novel is up and running.

Jed of course becomes a person of interest. He quickly gets sucked into the police investigation process and, initially to prove his innocence, then fired by his desire to foster the little girl that he and Monica name Aja, he begins to follow up leads of his own.

While the murder investigation gathers pace in the novel, normal life also goes on, and we get an insight into the relationships and world that Jed and Monica have. They are particularly close to Malcolm and his partner Savali, who is undergoing gender transition. They are struggling to cope with the impending closure of the old folks home they are running, and the need to place their residents. This has no direct impact on the investigation, but the threads are neatly pulled together by the end.

As a result of Jed’s amateur work, he is led to weed-farmers Dutch and Juniper, who become good friends, even though they run a personal risk. His work also unearths less savoury characters, and Jed relies on the police and FBI for support and protection. We see racist incidents, neo-Nazi activity and the backlash against it, and some shadowy visits by obvious underworld types.

Throughout all this, we see the tensions rise between Jed and Monica over Aja, their shared hopes and dreams, and the practicality of two sixty-somethings raising an infant.

What I Liked:

It is more than a simple whodunnit. We get a real sense of people at a point in time, their lives, and how they deal with change and stress.
The multiplicity of topics raised – racism (both direct and indirect), importance of family, LGBTQ, different moral viewpoints on cultural issues, etc.
The plotline was excellent, with some surprising twists, and there was some strong character development in Jed and Monica.
What I Didn’t Like:

There was obviously at least one preceding book, as there are references to previous events, and characters who are mentioned but not “seen". This did throw the story for me a little, because I couldn’t see where those characters/events helped this novel.
There were a couple of scenes that were too domestic, in that the conversation was desultory, and nothing happened to move the story along.

I found it a pleasant read, well-structured and reasonably paced. There are a lot of sub-issues addressed, but there is no high moral ground taken. The issues are raised as being normal everyday issues, and treated by the characters in that way, with pros and cons. It will please fans of the amateur detective genre, as it hits all the touchpoints. Definitely recommend.


That’s to Rosie Amber's Book Review Team (her superb blog is HERE) and the author for giving me a .mobi of the novel, in return for an honest and objective review.
Profile Image for Amanda.
119 reviews1 follower
February 23, 2020
I was asked to read this book by the author. After doing so, here is my honest review.

Synopsis: Jed is an African-American male who takes care of a Columbarium in San Francisco. Jed find a dead woman at the Columbarium upon arriving at work one morning, along with her baby whom is still alive. The story focuses on Jed playing detective and trying to figure out who murdered this woman and seeing if he can keep her baby for himself and his wife, Monica.

The Story:
I think there is a good story here. It is unique in the sense that I have never read, or even heard of, a murder mystery where the crime took place at a Columbarium. There were a few parts that I thought to myself, "awww" or "I'm glad that happened." For example, when Jed saves the White Supremacist and he later thanks him for saving his life. That was a nice touch.

Where I feel there could be improvement is focusing more on the main characters when telling the story. There was a lot going on at times with different characters. I feel that some characters could have been eliminated. If not eliminated, then they all needed more development. For example, the main character, Jed. This is the character I needed to know the best and develop a feeling for. It was hard to do that. The story mentions he had a daughter who died. How did she die? What was that like for him? How can I empathize more for this guy and understand his current decisions even more? Monica has HIV? How long has she had it? How did she get it? Paint this picture for me so I can develop a relationship with these characters.

Something that is controversial right now, seen with American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, is a white author writing a colored main character. In this case, Jed is black. I'm not sure the author writing from this perspective is a good idea or works out well. How can you write about what it feels like for a black man to be worried about how police will treat you as a black male if you are not black or male?

The writing:
I enjoyed how to the point Gallo was at some points in the book. I'm not hoping for Tolkien level detail. By all means, that is a lot of unnecessary detail. I would have liked more detail though. Give me more character detail, more descriptions of smells and colors and textures. Draw me into the world of this book.

The sentence structure could also be improved. There were times I wasn't sure who was speaking. Start a new paragraph with each new speaker even if it is a two-person dialogue. Less detail on how Jed got so many voicemails and more detail toward character development.

I appreciate the author reaching out to ask for me thoughts on her book. I can't imagine that is an easy thing to do nor is writing a book to begin with. So, here are my thoughts and I hope they are helpful.
Profile Image for Píaras Cíonnaoíth.
Author 69 books113 followers
February 21, 2019
A first-class whodunit with perfect pacing...

Author Emily Gallo weaves a first-class murder mystery with intriguing twists and turns that will easily captivate the reader’s attention from the beginning. The author paints a compelling story of corruption, bigotry and drug trafficking in a very vivid and convincing way. In addition, the characters are drawn with great credibility and conviction. It’s a fast-paced novel that will keep you engaged from the first page to the last.

The book description gives only a sneak preview: ‘Jed’s quiet life as caretaker of the San Francisco Columbarium is turned upside down when he comes upon a dead woman’s body and a crying baby just inside the gate. His search for answers thrusts him into a world of corruption, bigotry and drug trafficking and he becomes one of the principal suspects…’

I enjoyed the story, character development, and dialogue. There were plenty of plot twists that I didn’t see coming and that added to the book’s mystique. When I stopped reading to work, I found myself wondering what happened in the book, and replaying parts of the novel in my head to see if I could figure more out. It has been a while since I enjoyed a book this much. It’s a first-class whodunit with perfect pacing. Not much is as it appears here, which is just the way fans of mystery, thriller and suspense will want it.

Murder at the Columbarium had every element a good story should have. An intriguing plot, attention to detail, but best of all fleshed out, well-written and well-rounded character development. There’s an abundance of well-illustrated scenes that make you feel like you are right there in the story, and that’s something I really look for in a good book. It’s one of those stories that come along once in a while that makes you want to read it non-stop until you get to the end. I’m giving nothing further away here. And this, I hope, will only add to the mystery and enjoyment for the reader!

I’ll be looking forward to reading more from Emily Gallo in the future. I would definitely recommend this book. A well-deserved five stars from me.
Profile Image for Kimberly.
295 reviews15 followers
November 17, 2019
Emily Gallo has a way with words in Murder at the Columbarium. She takes the most controversial topics of our time and makes them mundane. It is fantastic!

In Murder at the Columbarium, we open into Jed going to work at the Columbarium, just as he has every day for who knows how long. However, instead of a quiet day working his rounds, he sees a dead body and a live infant lying next to it. Unknown to Jed, his life will never be the same again.

I loved this novel. I love mysteries, and this one did not disappoint me in the slightest. The well put together story with perfect timing and excitement at just the right places is excellent. However, Gallo brings us topics such as HIV, transgender, and gay into the world in the most unexpected way.

Each time Gallo drops a bombshell into a sentence that just flows into the next sentence without taking a breath. It is the most refreshing thing I have ever seen.
I am tired of LGBTQIAP issues being “bombshells” when they don’t need to be. I want to live in Gallo’s San Francisco because these issues are not issues at all. The characters are neighbors, friends, loved ones, and so much more. They are just people, and I hate that I have to bring this up at all, and the only reason I am is so that readers and other authors could learn from this.

Now then, there is one thing that I didn’t quite understand. I never could figure out why Jed was a viable suspect in the murder, other than the fact that the woman was murdered within the locked gate. None of the additional evidence pointed at him, yet there is a lot of energy spent in the book trying to make it seem as if Jed were the number one suspect.

Of course, that small annoyance does not change my mind that everyone should read this book. The mystery is fantastic. A large part of the book takes place on a pot farm. Once again, just like it is the most normal thing in the world.

I am honored to award Murder at the Columbarium a full 5 out of 5 stars. I will be reading more of Gallo’s work, and I suggest you all do the same.

Thank you to the author and her publicist for gifting me a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Rae Marie.
13 reviews
February 12, 2020
Murder at the Columbarium focuses on Jed, the caretaker, after he finds a murdered woman and a baby just inside the gate. Through the story, Jed finds himself in the middle of the investigation, and at one point a suspect for the murder.
I did read a few reviews before I began reading the novel. Learning that a previous novel followed Jed and his wife Monica, I did a little digging to understand a little more of the main character and his wife.
I appreciated how different locations are brought up in San Francisco, especially the connection with Jonestown. I had to look up (out of my own curiosity) if there were ties between the two (sure enough there was).
The conflict between Jed and his wife over Aja was believable. As a couple in their 60s, there is reason to be uncertain about adopting a child and even just fostering a baby.
Jed is one of those guys that wants to do the right thing and help people, which I’m guessing is another repercussion to escaping Jonestown when so many that didn’t. It helps create reason behind Jed’s persistence to find out what happened to Aja’s mother and try to see if she has a family.
That being said, I would have loved to see more ties to Jed’s memories/connection to Jonestown. That would definitely be painful, and even though it’s discussed more in another novel, I would’ve liked to see if the murder was more of a trigger for Jed.
Even as a relaxed murder mystery, I feel like the focus was more on Jed and Monica and trying to figure out what to do about Aja and the racist acts taking place at the Columbarium. Most of the tension seemed to be when Jed becomes a suspect, and when things with Aja’s family becomes clearer.
As a contemporary, I thought Gallo did a good job.
Profile Image for N Castelino.
265 reviews9 followers
September 19, 2019
"All Jed had was his engaging, honourable personality. He hoped that would be enough." And it is definitely more than enough. Emily Gallo's "Murder at the Columbarium" has an intriguing plot, one that is layered in the background of many important and relevant subjects of modern society that is centred around race, sexuality, political beliefs and drugs. This book is an absolute page-turner even with a very clear and direct writing style. Apart from the main plot, the book is guided by empathy, kindness and the principle of making the best use of what one has got. I absolutely enjoyed the diversity and inclusivity present in this book through memorable characters such as Malcolm, Savali, Juniper, Dutch, Homer and of course Uncle Tony. The love and partnership between Jed and Monica Gibbons is so realistic and beautiful. The parallels between SFPD and the FBI was note worthy and this book is definitely thought-provoking and engaging.
A thank you to VoraciousReadersOnly for providing a free review copy of this book via the author.
Profile Image for Happy Booker.
1,145 reviews64 followers
November 16, 2019
Murder at the Columbarium is a murder mystery. Jed witnesses a woman’s dead body and a baby that is crying. Things cannot get worse for him when he is also considered as a suspect. He spends his time finding answers not only for his own curious mind but to also clear his name.

The story has a blend of mentioning drug culture issues, racism, LGBTQ matters. With a combination of a few plot twists, action scenes, and adventurous thriller pursuits, the author manages to create a really intriguing murder story.

The literature was easy to follow and understand. The pace was steady and kept the reader’s interest going. There were times where you would wonder where the story was going, but that did not stir away from the remarkable book.

I particularly enjoyed how the author chose to use characters that were usually unseen – not worthy- or generally disregarded by the public. I think that made the story stand a chance of being different than other similar novels.

I would recommend this book to those who like to read murder mysteries and people who like to read on crime.
84 reviews2 followers
February 17, 2020
Recently, I was asked to read and review Murder at the Columbarium by the author. If you'd like to read this title yourself, the various purchasing links can be found at emilygallo.com.
The story begins with Jed, the caretaker of the San Francisco Columbarium, finding a crying baby within the gates of the building - along with a dead woman that's presumed to be her mother. Jed gets sucked into the mystery of her death as he and his social worker wife take temporary care of the baby.
While the book is too dialogue-heavy and the story a bit flat, readers can follow a good-natured man who innocently finds himself pursuing a lot of possibilities at once. Jed is surrounded by loyal friends who support his decisions, and a charming baby that readers will like. I don't think I would read it again, but it might be good for someone who doesn't usually read a lot or who wants a simpler read.

Read my full review at samiamreadingandreviewing.wordpress.com.
1 review1 follower
April 21, 2020
Jed is the caretaker of the San Francisco Columbarium which is a building with niches where funeral urns are stored. After the discovery of a dead woman’s body and a crying baby on the grounds - his world is turned upside down. He is thrusted into a world of corruption and drugs as he searches for answers to clear himself as a suspect.

Not normally my go to genre but I did enjoy reading this book. It tackles many different topics from HIV to Homelessness and many more. There also was a fantastic range of characters - different lifestyles, sexual orientation, race and age. It was all incorporated into the story in a way that didn’t feel like it was being forced.

I was left wanting to more about the main characters background before the discovery. There were little snippets slotted in that made me feel like I wanted to research him.

I will be keeping an eye out for more books by Emily Gallo - thank you for a good read!
Profile Image for Carol Peace.
594 reviews
September 11, 2019
I was introduced to this book by Voracious readers and I am so glad I was, I loved the characters and followed the intricate story line with ease.
Jed worked at the Columbarium and one day when he arrived he found a dead woman in the grounds but then he could hear a baby and he found her, comforted her and then called the police. Jed and his wife Monica then try and find out where the baby came from and who the woman was as it seemed that the police were slow in their investigation. There were some funny points as well as the dark side of people as they encountered racism and corruption amongst other things. I really connected with the characters and couldn't put this book down as I felt compelled to 'just read another page' so I could find out the fate of them.
190 reviews
September 1, 2019
This was an interesting book. The author weaves in every type of disadvantaged minority but in a believable way. The story itself is intriguing that keeps you wanting to read. And I learned a few new things along the way. Did you know in Pakistan they have to give their finger prints before buying a cell phone?
Full disclosure: This book was given to me for free through Voracious Readers in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Charlsey.
23 reviews
January 4, 2020
I could not put this book down- a very fast read and enjoyable! It reminded me of a modern day Agatha Christie; I felt like a detective, just like the main character Jed. As you’re reading the book, you just want to figure out who committed the crime and by the time you know it, the book is done! Great read!!
4,262 reviews25 followers
January 26, 2021
Diverse elements in a rainbow colored background setting. Meticulous details in plot and action.

An event that upsets the life of one man, and ends the life of someone else brings many additional twists and turns

Well woven whodunnit

I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.
76 reviews
January 4, 2023
My husband and I did the audio version. If a murder/mystery could be described as delightful, this would be how I would describe it. Keep our interest on our long drive.
Profile Image for Kate Kirton.
16 reviews1 follower
February 17, 2020
Murder at the columbarium was overly repetitive, with a fairly slow ambling pace that held, occasionally, detail that was unnecessary for the plot. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the book, and would read more by this author.
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