A quiet life doesn’t seem to be on the cards for Corey Curtis and Thayer Reynolds. Even when they’re not looking for trouble, it finds them. This time, trouble comes in the form of a torn prescription on a dead and frozen body. Guess who signed the prescription? And who is waiting for the body to thaw so that she can do the autopsy?
I really don’t recommend reading Zero Chill if you haven’t read (or, even better, listened to Lori Prince’s narration of) Gallows Humor and Dirt Nap. There’s a logical progression to the various relationships and character growth that you’d miss out on.
I liked Zero Chill a lot more by the end than I did at the beginning. I struggled a bit to get into the story, I’m not sure why. It felt slow, even though I was happy to get more Thayer and Corey. What I’m saying is if, like me, you’re not one hundred per cent in from page one, stick with it. In the foreword, the author explains that it’s her “Covid book” and I guess Covid took a toll on everyone.
For that matter, the pandemic isn’t absent from this book, it’s in the background, but it feels a little as if the author had struggled to make up her mind on whether to mention it at all. Thayer recommends wearing masks when going out at one point, and asks a patient about Covid-like symptoms (loss of taste and smell, among others) but beyond that, it’s business as usual with Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties, cheek-kissing and hand-shaking. I’m okay with stories set in a parallel Covid-free universe, I’m okay with stories including Covid, I’m okay with whatever choices authors make but this non-choosing confused me.
It’s a minor complaint, however, there’s a lot to love in this book. The best thing about this series is the characters. And while some might regret that the crime arc isn’t the strongest, I feel in return we get even more character development and I’m more than cool with that.
I’ll start with the main characters. I love Thayer and Corey. I love them individually and together. They’re flawed and complex and relatable. I love their banter and I love their difficult times, not only when they get hurt by outsiders, but also what they go through as a couple, how they grow together and with each other. In this instalment, Thayer is suffering from PTSD from the events in Dirt Nap and Corey, who isn’t perfect, is sometimes at a loss as to how to deal with it and support her. There are quite a few heartbreaking moments.
Probably the main reason why I love this couple so much is the chemistry between them. Whether it’s the small, intimate touches of daily life or the passionate ones, the tenderness, this absolute yet fragile knowledge that they are meant for each other, all the interactions between Corey and Thayer are perfect.
Elizabeth really writes excellent characters, which extends to the secondary cast. I would have loved a little more of Thayer’s grandmother Lillian but new characters made up for it. One in particular, Nora Warren, Kelly Warren’s sister (Thayer got to know Kelly when he looked after her in Dirt Nap), a reverend who will turn Rachel (Corey’s best friend) upside down. I enjoyed watching badass Rachel get all flustered and Nora really is a fascinating character. I hope we get to see more of her, and of them together, in a future book.
Another very strong point is the science and how real Corey and Thayer’s professions feel. I’m in no position to judge how accurate Elizabeth’s descriptions of autopsies are, but they feel authentic and never, while reading, do I wonder whether she got a specific fact right or not.
Getting more time with Thayer and Corey is always a treat, Elizabeth writes them so well. I hope we get more of their shenanigans.