Essentials of Murder By Kim Davis: Review/Giveaway/Recipe

Oct 16, 2021 | 2021 Articles, Food Fun, Kathleen Costa, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Kathleen Costa
& Kim Davis

This week we have a review of the first in a new series by Kim Davis, and Kim has shared with us a fun Halloween recipe. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book and a link to purchase it from Amazon.

Essentials of Murder: An Aromatherapy Apothecary Mystery by Kim Davis
Review by Kathleen Costa

Introducing Aroma…murder!
Ten years ago Carissa Carmichael couldn’t wait to escape her hometown of Oak Creek Valley for a big city adventure in San Francisco where she honed her skills, knowledge, and experience with aromatherapy and reflexology through her association with friend and mentor Mari Kemp. However, nine months ago her adventure turned horrific ordeal that included accusations of “fraud” and an arrest all courtesy of her big city, now ex, boyfriend. The “escapade,” as her father Robert Carmichael describes it, also resulted in difficult challenges for him as Oak Creek Valley’s chief of police. Released from culpability, she left “The City” behind and returned home, taking up residence on the avocado farm left to her by her grandmother. She made the decision to use some of her inheritance to open up her own business, Aromatherapy Apothecary, that in two days time, is set for its grand opening, and despite the fact many know about more than one of her scandalous run-ins with the law, she is looking forward to a fresh start.

Essentials of Murder Earns 5/5 Pixie Tangerines…Sweet and Tangy Page-Turner!
Next door, in the Mystic Valley Candle shop, Carissa can’t help but overhear Victoria Lewellyn and her son Russ having quite a loud kerfuffle about her and her shop. Although Carissa and Victoria have big plans for cross-promotions and joint projects, Russ refuses to see the collaborative and lucrative possibilities between Victoria’s candles and Carissa’s essential oils. He is bent on making a big “stink” about Carissa stealing patrons and his mother losing business, more accurately his meal ticket. Victoria knows lately her son has had problems with anger management and warns Carissa to keep their shared door locked at all times; she’s not entirely confident that Russ wouldn’t try to sabotage her shop. Carissa knows it’s not a far-fetched idea since Russ has mimed threats outside her shop window. She tells her father about the most recent “gun” gesture Russ made with his fingers, and he suggests she stay in town with him until he can discuss the matter with Russ. However, it’s moot since someone got there before him. The next morning, arriving early at the shop to finish prepping for the grand opening, Carissa sees the adjoining door is open and Russ’s bludgeoned body is on the floor. Looking-loos get quite the scene when Victoria arrives accusing Carissa, “You killed my son!”

With an Air of Success! Kim Davis is “coming up…lavender” with this fragrant cozy gem, first in her Aromatherapy Apothecary Mystery series, where half the residents think Carissa is guilty of murder and the other half aren’t sure or instead cast aspersions or threats, but it’s the ruined businessmen, blackmail victims, and high-pressure developers that could provide a better focus for law enforcement. Carissa’s fascinating backstory may have readers identifying with her family tragedy, misfortunes of youth, and and high-school frenemies resulting in a lack of confidence, but admire her efforts to find a more positive path. The supporting dynamic with her Chief of Police dad, high-school BFF and single mom Ashley Price, and young Dillon Andrews whose mother is dating her dad is very valuable. There’s also a delightful hint of romance with local baker Jasper Whitby whose pastries are one of her guilty pleasures that may be contributing to the extra curves in her body; he, however, doesn’t seem to mind. The mystery is clever and quite intriguing as Carissa’s dad is taken off the case, conflict of interest, and the detective in charge, with a deceptive manner, has an ulterior motive that with his dogged approach could put Carissa in jail and her father dismissed from the force. But, it’s Russ’s background, manner, and treatment of others that make the pool of suspects deep and murky. Carissa’s snooping turns up what many call rumors and gossip, but cleverly where there’s smoke, there is also an entertaining fire. Davis’s writing style is a favorite with her use of vivid descriptions, engaging banter, informative details on aromatherapy and reflexology, diverse personalities, a strong, yet flawed, lead female, and a clever mystery that ends in some personal peril. This is a well-written, don’t-miss cozy with lots of entertaining extras: family issues with dating parents, a friend in financial difficulty, adopting a rescue puppy, and the ins and outs of business and marketing. Big contender for my Top Favorite for 2021!

Alert! Essentials of Death, book two, is in the works with a projected release date in 2022. I had a sneak peek, and was totally engaged as Carissa finds herself in another fragrant mess with high school frenemy Lacie Simmons. Promoting her new business at the kickoff event at a local writing conference, she sets up a spa-themed booth. Karma, however, has arrived, and Carissa once again finds herself entangled in another murder investigation.

Evermine Blog—Crimson Tide Essential Oil Blend
Check out this link to the recipe from Rachel Beyer inspired by Idea Land…drops of German chamomile, clary sage, sweet marjoram, rose, lavender, and sweet almond oil is the author’s remedy for PMS.

Be a Big Kim Davis Fan!
A favorite book reviewer and blogger at Cinnamon, Sugar and a Little Bit of Murder, Kim Davis, aka K.A. Davis, is also a writer. In 2017, she wrote the thriller A Game of Deceit (reviewed HERE) to rave reviews, and in 2020, she introduced the now popular cozy mystery three-book Cupcake Catering Mystery series.

Facebook Like Kim Davis, Author
On the Web: Kim Davis, Author
Facebook Blog Site, too Cinnamon Sugar and a Little Bit of Murder
On the Web Blog – Cinnamon, Sugar and a Little Bit of Murder

Kathleen Costa is a long-time resident of the Central Valley, and although born in Idaho, she considers herself a “California Girl.” Graduating from CSU-Sacramento, she is a 35+ year veteran teacher having taught in grades 1-8 in schools from Sacramento to Los Angeles to Stockton to Lodi. Currently Kathleen is enjoying her retirement revitalizing hobbies along with exploring writing, reading for pleasure, and spending 24/7 with her husband.

Chicken Cordon Boo Casserole

4 ounces wide egg noodles
6 slices white cheese, divided (such as American, white cheddar, or provolone) (don’t use thin sliced)
6 small capers (or small bits of black olives for the eyes)

Cheese Sauce:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves minced fresh garlic
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-2/3 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 cup chopped cooked chicken
1/2 cup ham, cubed into small pieces

1-1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
1-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Spray an 8 x 8-inch or 9 x 9-inch casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

Using a 3-inch cookie cutter, cut 3 ghost shapes from 3 cheese slices. Cover the ghosts with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Coarsely chop the remaining 3 slices of cheese along with the scraps left over from the ghosts and set aside.

Cook noodles according to al dente directions on the package. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water then drain the noodles well. Return noodles to the pot and set aside.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for an additional 1 minute. Sprinkle flour over the onion mixture and stir while it cooks for 2 minutes.

Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to keep sauce from getting lumpy. Cook until mixture begins to bubble, then stir in mustard, paprika, and chopped cheese. Remove from heat. Stir until cheese is melted and sauce is creamy. If the sauce seems too thick, add some of the reserved pasta water to loosen sauce up.

Add the chopped chicken, ham, and cheese sauce to the reserved noodles. Stir until the mixture is well combined, then transfer to the prepared casserole dish.

Stir together the panko bread crumbs and melted butter, then sprinkle over the casserole.

Bake 30 minutes until bubbly.

Remove from oven and arrange the cheese ghosts over the crust and arrange the capers for eyes on the ghosts. Return to the oven for 1 minute to heat ghosts, but don’t overheat so that they melt.

Recipe can be doubled. Bake in a 13 x 9-inch casserole dish for the same amount of time.

To enter to win a copy of Essentials of Murder (winner’s choice ebook or print), simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, with the subject line “essential,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 23, 2021. Only US entries and you must be at least 18 to enter. BE SURE TO STATE IF YOU WANT PRINT OR EBOOK WHEN YOU ENTER, AND IF YOU WANT PRINT AND ENTER VIA EMAIL PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR MAILING ADDRESS IN CASE YOU WIN. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. A new episode goes up next week!

You can use this link to purchase these book from Amazon. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the link:

Kim Davis lives in Southern California with her husband. When not chasing her two granddaughters, she can be found at her computer writing the Cupcake Catering Mystery series, or blogging at Cinnamon, Sugar, and a Little Bit of Murder, or in the kitchen baking up new treats to share. Kim Davis is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. I can’t thank you enough for hosting me on KRL today and for the absolutely amazing review! You definitely made my day and I’m thrilled with the opportunity to share my new book with your readers!

  2. Love her other series – so well written, and so much fun – this one sounds fantastic too !

    • Kim’s book sound like a great read and love the recipe!

      • Thanks for stopping by, Lisa. Good luck in the contest and I hope you enjoy the casserole recipe!

    • Thanks so much, Taylor! I appreciate your encouragement. Good luck in the contest!

  3. Just made a chicken casserole.
    Wish I’d had this recipe before
    I started. The book sounds
    like it will be a good read.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Mary! I hope you have a chance to try out this recipe for Halloween and good luck in the contest!

  4. What a fun post! I am looking forward to reading this and so excited for Kim’s continued success. Thanks for the chance to win.

    • Thanks so much! I appreciate you dropping by and good luck in the contest!

  5. I think this book sounds a really fun one to read. I hope I win. The recipie is one I plan to try. Love food ideas.

    • I hope you enjoy the casserole as much as my family did and good luck in the contest!

  6. Essentials of Murder sounds like an interesting and entertaining book. I’d love to win a print copy!

    • Thanks for coming by, Nancy, and good luck in the contest!

  7. Interesting storyline. Would really like to read. I prefer a print copy.

    • Thanks, Dianne, I had fun coming up with the theme 🙂 Good luck in the contest!

  8. Sounds interesting! Count me in!

    • Thanks so much, Glen, and good luck in the contest!

  9. I love Kim’s Cupcake Catering Mystery, and am looking forward to reading this new series. I would prefer a Kindle version if I’m a winner.

    • I appreciate hearing that, Peggy! Good luck in the contest!

  10. Can’t wait for the opportunity to read “Essentials of Murder” by Kim Davis. Always enjoy this author’s books and this one has been on my TBR list since it was first talked about.

    Will be trying this Chicken Cordon Boo Casserole very soon. Sounds both yummy and easy to make – a great combination.

    If I were fortunate enough to be selected, I would love a print copy of the book. I can’t sit at the computer long enough to read books on it.

    • I so appreciate hearing that Kay! I hope you enjoy the casserole (and I agree, easy and yummy is the best). Good luck in the contest!

  11. When a new series is published it is always nice to have an insight to what to expect. Thank you for including Essentials of Murder on your blog.

    • Thanks for joining us, Robin, and good luck in the contest!

  12. thanks for the chance to win!

    • You’re very welcome and good luck, Charlene!

  13. I would love to be your winner!
    Thanks for the chance!

    • You’re very welcome, Sherry, and good luck in the contest!

  14. This dish sounds good & I love the name of it. So cute.
    I’d prefer a print copy, please. Thanks for the giveaway!
    turtle6422 at gmail dot com

    • Awww, thanks! I love pun-y names for things too 🙂 Good luck in the contest!

  15. I would love to win this book. I need a book because I am in rehab currently for a fractured hip. Ebook not home.

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your fracture, Merri! I hope you’re on the mend and not in pain. Good luck in the contest… I know books help pass the time and provide a good escape from surroundings.

  16. I would love to win your print book! Thank you for the chance!?

    • You’re welcome, Sherry, and good luck in the contest!

  17. Count me in!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Teresa, and good luck!

  18. Sounds great. Print please.

    • Thanks for dropping by, Nancy, and good luck!

  19. Dear KRL,

    As a avid reader who raised her now adult children to always carry a book with the so if they are kept waiting they will never mind as they will have something to do that they enjoy while they wait. I love to discover new authors.


    PS – thank you for the possible opportunity.

    Sent from my iPad

  20. I agree with you 100%, Patty, it’s always a good thing to have a book with you no matter where you go. Good luck in the contest!

  21. Thanks for the fun recipes. Love the unique names.

    • You’re welcome and good luck in the contest!

  22. What a fun recipe, I can’t wait to give it a try! I would love to give the book a read too – print if I win.

    • I hope you enjoy the recipe and good luck in the contest, Claire!

  23. This recipe sounds great!

    • Thanks, Julie, I hope you enjoy it! And good luck in the contest!

  24. The recipe sounds delicious and I can’t wait to read this book. Thanks for your great generosity.

    • You’re very welcome, Linda, and good luck in the contest!

  25. These recipes sound and look delicious and fun!! Thank you for the chance.

    • Thank you for stopping by, Alicia, and good luck in the contest! I hope you enjoy the casserole too!

  26. Looks like an interesting book. The recipe looks good to.

  27. We have a winner!


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