Zerbrowski is the stereotypical rumpled, smart-alec, but highly competent detective, shrewd thinker, and a loyal friend and later unofficial partner to Anita when she works with RPIT. He also makes wisecracks about Anita's personal life and is a cheerful lech. Sometimes it's hard to tell if he's being serious or just kidding, and on some days Anita finds him very irritating. His car is what Anita calls "a toxic waste zone".
Zerbrowski doesn't have a problem seeing Anita with Micah and Nathaniel at the same time, and they've been dinner guests at least once before Kiss the Dead and a couple of times before Dancing, although in smaller events. Zerbrowski's wife Katie usually does the cooking because Zerbrowski is a disaster in kitchen, although he can handle a grill and is enthusiastic about grilling.
Zerbrowski has brown eyes and wears glasses. He has messy black hair that was already going grey in the early parts of the series even if he isn't that old. By the time of Dead Ice the hair is getting increasingly salt-and-pepper with lessening amounts of pepper. The only times the hair isn't messy are when Katie has just had him get it cut short enough to keep it neat by itself. In The First Death he sports a short goatee.
His general appearance is often mismatched and usually unruly despite his wife's best efforts to keep him in nice suits and ties and freshly pressed shirts for work, and during the weekends she doesn't even try. He has at least one set pajamas with little trains in them, and when he's called into a crime scene in the middle of the night he often leaves the pajama top on under his suit jacket. In The Lunatic Cafe we get to see him unexpectedly spiffy and neat, when he gets called to a crime scene from his wedding anniversary date.
Zerbrowski seems to change glasses quite often. In The Laughing Corpse they are dark-rimmed. In Incubus Dreams the glasses are silver, and his hair short. In Kiss the Dead he has new tortoiseshell glasses, and his hair is unusually long enough to fall around his collar. When he takes off his glasses and rubs at his eyes Anita notices some fine lines for the first time. The Dancing narrative says Katie saw past wire-framed glasses, leaving it a bit unclear whether the glasses are wire-framed at the time of the eShort, or were so back when Katie and Zerbrowski started dating. In Dead Ice the glasses are silver-framed and square.
Anita believes that Zerbrowski might pose some very slight psychic abilities, because when a vampire's power is floating around the room, Zerbrowski shivers, while all of the other police officers feel nothing. He is close to being a psychic null, i.e. someone without any psychic abilities, but he's not quite there. Later, when St. Louis starts pairing officers with some psychic ability with officers who don't, Zerbrowski falls on the regular people side of the divide.
Katie Zerbrowski - Anita, along with almost everyone else, is surprised that Zerbrowski got Katie to marry him, but they love each other very much. Zerbrowski met his wife in college, although she only noticed him after he set his dormitory kitchen in fire trying to warm up soup. His calm competence among the general panic impressed her. Before Anita hears this story Zerbrowski tells her during Burnt Offerings that he'd had to get Katie drunk to agree to a date, and although Anita suspects from the beginning that he's only joking she isn't certain until Katie tells the real one in Dancing. In The Lunatic Cafe Zerbrowski claims that he and Katie were engaged two months after they started dating, although it's uncertain if he only says this to mess with Anita and Richard. It's also unclear how long the engagement supposedly lasted, but Zerbrowski seems serious about the fact that they celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary on that very day, about two weeks before Christmas. When Anita asks if Zerbrowski was already a cop when they met, he answers with "Yeah, she knew what to expect." This doesn't precisely match with the college story, but could be taken as a reasonable enough fudging of the truth from only studying law enforcement at the time, since he isn't yet close friends with Anita.
Greg - Zerbrowski's son is twelve at the time of Dancing, but looks younger. He has inherited his father's hair and mother's delicate bone structure, which makes him a pretty kid. His quick thinking with a glass of ice water calms things up between Matthew and a kid who attacks him at the party. Greg doesn't have a dance background beyond learning ballroom dancing from his parents, but takes up dancing after impressing a tall, leggy, and skilled fifteen-or-so-years-old by being a good assistant for her performance.
Kaitlin - Zerbrowski's daughter is ten at the time of Dancing, and an enthusiastic ballet dancer herself. She's sad Matthew is too short to partner her, and is quite taken with him despite being more than twice his age. She has long, brown hair like her mother's, and is slender and stronger than she looks. When she switches into a ballet costume she looks taller, leaner, and graceful, and she performs well with Nathaniel's assistance. Wants to have her own ballet school one day, after first becoming a prima ballerina.
At the time of The Lunatic Cafe Zerbrowski lives in St. Peters. That may or may not be the house Anita visits later in the series.
In Dancing Zerbrowski lives in an one-story ranch style house in a suburb that has quite a few new houses in development, all getting built into one of the three different styles within that area, just in different colors and accessories. Zerbrowski's house has a brick siding and a neatly trimmed lawn, which they water enough to keep it green. The front yard has neat shrubs trimmed low near the foundation, and and the sidewalk that leads to the front door is lined by two small flower benches sporting flowers in a brilliant splash of yellow, white, and red in late August.
The yard is large, and was one of the deciding factors when Zerbrowski and Katie bought the house. They had rented tables and awnings for the yard for the barbecue, and placed them opposite from the area left open for kids' play, and where the swing set was. There is room for at least two cars out in front, and there are further parking opportunities along the driveway and the street itself as well, all of which can get filled with cars during the annual barbecue for cops and their families.
Inside the front door there's an airy and spacious living room. The hardwood floor was laid earlier in the year of the events of Dancing, and it gleams with polish during the barbecue. There's a big-screen TV and sound system speakers scattered throughout the room. The kitchen is neat-as-a-pin and has an island. From the kitchen you can get to the dining room at the back of the house, and the back door leads from the dining room to a large deck and the yard beyond. Zerbrowski's new grill is on the deck.
- can't swim (The Lunatic Cafe)
- doesn't smoke (Burnt Offerings)
- Zerbrowski and Dolph are the only members of their squad who aren't divorced (Kiss the Dead)
- disaster in the kitchen but good at grilling (Dancing)
- good ballroom dancer, dances well with Katie (Dancing)
- claims to love his smart phone and the connection it gives him to his family while he's too busy at work to actually see them much (Dead Ice)
In the comic book prequel, The First Death, we meet Zerbrowski only a few weeks after Anita has first met him. He is his usual unruly, wise-cracking, lecherous self, and teases Anita about the possibility of her throwing up on a body, again. He's present at the crime scenes, but doesn't follow Dolph and Anita around otherwise unless Anita isn't there to accompany Dolph.
When vampire called Sean attacks Anita, Zerbrowski shoots Sean to the back of his head. As Zerbrowski's gun doesn't have silver bullets and Sean is being controlled by his master at the time, the shot isn't enough to kill Sean and Anita has to finish him off. Afterwards Zerbrowski asks Anita a lot of questions about the details of her job and what exactly a warrant of execution allows and requires a vampire hunter to do.
Later, when Zerbrowski and Dolph are checking out a list of vampire names Sean gave them before his death, they come across a vampire who isn't paying attention to dawn and is still packing to escape when the dawn drops him dead. It's the first time Zerbrowski sees that happen. They call Anita in to execute the vampire, and Zerbrowski asks Anita about the execution process, but isn't happy to stay and watch when Anita decapitates the body with a machete on the off chance that the master is making the vampire more powerful than he should be. Zerbrowski doesn't leave the room, though, because Dolph isn't leaving either.
History within series Edit
We meet Zerbrowski for the first time at a crime scene when he calls out lewd suggestions to Anita. She shoots him down, and the following banter indicates that this is an usual occurrence. Later, after Anita gets bitten by Phillip and the bite bruises to look like an enormous hickey (or a vampire bite if bandaged), Anita thinks that Zerbrowski will never let her live it down if he sees it.
Again we meet Zerbrowski at a crime scene, for the first time up close. He needles Anita about a possibility of her throwing up—something that has happened previously, but not in months. Katie is also mentioned for the first time, when Zerbrowski says he wishes they could afford something as nice as the crime scene place with its vaulted ceilings and a skylight.
Later, after Anita gets attacked by zombies at her apartment, Zerbrowski is among the officers who come to the scene. He comments on the size of Anita's angelfishes, considering them big enough for eating. This is the first time he's at Anita's place, and the first time he hears her opinions on how to make good coffee (he claims his idea of a gourmet coffee is Taster's Choice). Anita finds his presence and the banter comforting. Once the coffee is ready, Zerbrowski takes his with a lot of sugar and a dab of cream. When Anita goes through the events with Dolph and Zerbrowski, we see him for the first time acting like the capable cop we learn him to be.
The morning after the following day we see Zerbrowski at yet another crime scene, with dark bags under his eyes. He's tired, but not too tired to participate in a bet whether Merlioni or Anita can handle more grossness. Merlioni breaks first and Zerbrowski judges Anita the winner, but when he mentions the food Anita is going to get out of the bet she has to dash away to empty her stomach as well. This may or may not be intentional from Zerbrowski's part.
Zerbrowski is one of the officers who go to search Dominga Salvador's place. He takes Antonio to the kitchen to interrogate him, while others go to investigate the basement. Turns out that the basement has been cleaned out of any and all evidence, but Zerbrowski gets Antonio to spill the beans, which is enough to get Dominga arrested. Zerbrowski also participates in the killer zombie hunt afterwards, and wonders aloud why the zombie just doesn't die even after it's been set to fire. Anita doesn't tell him it's because the zombie was an animator in life.
Dolph and Zerbrowski come to visit Anita in the emergency room after her encounter with the killer zombie, and Dolph has to close the curtain around her bed after Zerbrowski. Anita suspects he's the sort of person who never shuts a drawer. Zerbrowski compliments Anita on her bad-assery again, and jokes with her doctor that she doesn't have a superior but they'll do their best to get her boss to give her a day off. After the doctor leaves Dolph and Zerbrowski descend into outright laughter, but when they calm down Zerbrowski volunteers to be the one to give Anita a ride back home. Dolph vetoes this plan on the basis that if the two of them get into a car without supervision only one of them is getting out of there. Anita and Zerbrowski agree that the survivor wouldn't be Zerbrowski.
Once again, Zerbrowski sneaks up on Anita at a crime scene. He looks particularly unruly, having been woken up for the occasion and still wearing a pajama top (although not the one with little choo-choos that he claims Katie finds sexy) underneath his brown suit, and he's again grinning at Anita. They agree that sometimes it would be nice to be normal people instead of being around dead bodies regularly.
We see more of Zerbrowski in this book than the previous one, and although there's some expected banter between him and Anita, most of it is business. On this first crime scene he again questions Anita with Dolph, although this time as a preternatural expert rather than a victim and a witness. As it is a vampire killing that requires the presence of a master vampire, Dolph and Zerbrowski move on to question Malcolm, while Anita goes to talk to Jean-Claude.
Later, when Anita calls to Dolph with some new information, he jokes that Zerbrowski will like hearing that Anita has found a clue.
At the second crime scene we don't see Zerbrowski at first, but once Anita determines that the first victim is likely to rise that night as an animalistic vampire, and they can't reach the morgue, Dolph calls Zerbrowski over and they rush to check it out. Anita is the only one with silver bullets because of budget reasons, but they all go in anyway. They are too late to save the guards and the vampire counsellor, and the vampire also kills a rookie cop before Anita manages to kill it and Zerbrowski and Dolph drag it off them. We also learn that sometime before this book Anita has managed to throw up on a corpse once (possibly after the previous book since it wasn't mentioned there), and that Zerbrowski hasn't let her live that down ever since, even if we don't see him actually referring to the incident this time.
We don't see Zerbrowski again for the rest of the book, but when Anita talks to some other cops later after Humans First save her and Larry from vampires, she lies to the cops to keep the story about the night simpler, and thinks she'll tell the truth to Dolph and Zerbrowski later, although maybe not quite all of it.
Anita expects Zerbrowski to be on the first crime scene, but we don't actually see him until the second half of the book when he comes to pick up Anita to the second crime scene. He's coming straight from his tenth wedding anniversary, and is wearing a black formal suit with a neatly knotted tie and shining shoes. Even his hair is freshly cut and has products in it. It's the first time Anita ever sees him without food stains, and we learn that Zerbrowski has at least one child, although Anita is presumably already aware of the fact. Zerbrowski teases Anita and Richard about their relationship, unaware that things aren't going well, but seems supportive of it in his own way. What he actually succeeds in doing is to remind Anita she has never talked with Richard about his view on kids, which brings additional strain to the relationship.
This is also the first time Anita gets to see Zerbrowski's car. Apparently he never has other people in it, because he needs to clear the front seat and floor of fast food wrappers and newspapers for Anita to fit in. Contrary to Dolph's prediction two books ago, though, Anita and Zerbrowski survive the ride without killing each other. Later that night Zerbrowski's neat appearance meets its final end when he jumps into a river to help Anita despite not knowing how to swim. Afterwards he loans Katie's pink sweatsuit to Anita since she doesn't have a change of clothes.
Next day Dolph has Zerbrowski to check Anita out in connection to missing person cases. It's unclear what Zerbrowski thinks of this, as the exchange centers on Dolph and Anita. The standoff ends after Anita gets permission to share details of the missing lycanthropes with the police and figures out the likely perpetrator, and they all leave together to confront Elvira Drew. Zerbrowski ends up gutted by a shapeshifted witch, and Anita has to hold his intestines in since none of the officers are willing to risk contracting lycanthropy, even after Anita tells them it's impossible to catch it from someone who isn't, in fact, a lycanthrope. Zerbrowski survives but has to stay in hospital past Christmas, which means two or more weeks.
We don't see Zerbrowski in this book, but we learn that the team is shorthanded because he still isn't back on duty. The book is set halfway through March, so it's been three months since he got hurt.
In this novel, which is set in May, Anita sees Zerbrowski for the first time since the day he got out of hospital, and is glad enough to get up and hug him. He jokes about leaving Katie for Anita if she starts wearing the likes of her current attire every day, and teases her about Jean-Claude. Zerbrowski hasn't been back on duty for long before the current crime scene (Robert's murder). Zerbrowski notices the tension between Anita and Dolph, but doesn't press on the subject since Dolph clearly doesn't want to talk about it -- bugging Anita about it would be a completely different matter, but she isn't alone. They talk about the case, and Anita shares for the first time her theory that Zerbrowski might have a smidgen of psychic talent, enough to give him occasional seemingly illogical hunches that turn out to be true, but not enough that he would be able to tell whether a person has any magical talent just by shaking their hand. Before he leaves the room to follow up on Anita's ideas Zerbrowski also invites Anita and Richard over for dinner (Katie's famous mushroom chicken). The invitation wouldn't include Jean-Claude even if he was Anita's only boyfriend, because Katie is a bit nervous about vampires. A bit later Zerbrowski peeks back in very briefly to let Dolph and Anita know that Robert's wife has arrived back home.
In this novel, which is set about six weeks after the previous one, we see Zerbrowski after Anita gets from a crime scene to the RPIT headquarters in order to talk to the supposed victim. Anita isn't very enthusiastic about it even before she gets there, knowing he's going to say something about her dress (he does). He's himself dressed even worse than usual, and claims to have done it in the dark. It's mentioned that Zerbrowski got back from sick leave after the new year, which is really stretching things from the previous novels which would place his return to duty likely to April, or late March at the very earliest. We also learn that after he got back, stuffed penguins started showing up at crime scenes, especially in or on Anita's car. She has tried ignoring and collecting them, but the penguins have kept multiplying. When she walks with Zerbrowski into the squad room she finds a dozen penguins, one on every desk, and is wary of where Zerbrowski is going to take the joke next. When they walk on towards the interrogation room downstairs they get back into Zerbrowski's lechery and how he got Katie to marry him. He claims he got her drunk, although Anita doesn't believe him. He tells her Katie is likely to tell some romantic and stupid story in turn, and warns Anita from believing that either. They don't talk about the actual case much, since Zerbrowski knows Dolph likes to keep people uninfluenced beforehand. Zerbrowski and Dolph wait in the room while Anita talks to the woman, and Zerbrowski is left with her when Dolph and Anita leave to talk outside.
We don't see Zerbrowski again, but he's later mentioned as being the one who would end up in charge if anything happened to Dolph. Even later in the novel we learn that RPIT has silver ammo now thanks to Dolph and Zerbrowski getting injured past winter, it being the final push needed to get the paperwork through. We also learn that Anita got them a box of ammo for Christmas before they got their official allocation.
This novel is set out of town and Zerbrowski is only mentioned once, when Anita throws up at a crime scene and is glad Zerbrowski isn't there to rib her about it.
As before, Anita is out of town and Zerbrowski is mentioned once as one of the St. Louis cops Anita knows well and feels she can be more direct with about psychic stuff than with the cops in New Mexico.
The very first mention of Zerbrowski in this novel is that Anita is tired of people being judgmental, Zerbrowski included. When we later see him in person at RPIT squad room he's relieved enough to see her alive that he picks her off the ground to a huge bear hug and spins her around, but suspicious of her fast recovery from what they all thought were lethal injuries delivered by Jean-Claude. Zerbrowski keeps calling Jean-Claude Count Dracula, mostly to get a rise out of Anita. This is also the first time Zerbrowski meets Nathaniel, who drove Anita to the precinct, although they don't really interact with each other. Zerbrowski is present when Dolph nearly loses it about the subject of Anita's relationship with Jean-Claude but doesn't interfere. When Zerbrowski escorts Anita to Jean-Claude and sees them hugging, Zerbrowski realizes it's more than lust and promises to talk to Dolph, although Anita doesn't think that will help. Zerbrowski treats Jean-Claude as an actual boyfriend from then on.
The next we see Zerbrowski he's working a crime scene at Anita's house after an assassination attempt. He makes sure Anita talks to no one else before Dolph has a chance to question her, but interferes when Dolph loses his calm again. Later, when Anita calls Dolph with some information, Zerbrowski calls out from the background that if there are any more bodies, Anita should just hide them since he doesn't want to start over with the paperwork.
Anita, Nathaniel, and Micah visit Zerbrowski's home for a get-together with some of Zerbrowski's other friends. Zerbrowski and Katie help keep the peace when there's tension with the guests, and he loses a bet with Nathaniel that Nathaniel can get some of the boys dancing.
The novel opens with Anita meeting FBI agents in Dolph's office with Zerbrowski keeping her company. FBI is consulting Anita specifically, but Zerbrowski is there since they are partners when she works with RPIT. When Anita realizes she's going to have to ask Manny some questions that law enforcement shouldn't hear she makes excuses to leave, but Zerbrowski isn't fooled, even if he doesn't blow her cover. Later on when Anita needs to exhume a grave to ensure her zombie was properly laid to rest, she calls Zerbrowski. He helps get the necessary court order for the exhumation and meets her at the graveyard in the early morning hours. Later, when Anita meets with the FBI agents again, Zerbrowski can't make it since his kids have a dance recital. When Anita learns Manny's children have been kidnapped she texts Zerbrowski while she's on the phone with the kidnapper. She doesn't get Zerbrowski as a backup, though, but the local SWAT team. We don't see or hear of Zerbrowski again for the rest of the novel.
We don't see Zerbrowski in Crimson Death, but he's mentioned as Anita's partner when she works with R.P.I.T., and someone she's close enough friends with that both she and Nathaniel are listed as emergency pick-up persons from school for Zerbrowski's kids.