Comic relief and tension-breakers: Two examples, and a question for readers
Camilleri's running joke is a constantly postponed meeting between Inspector Salvo Montalbano and the commissioner he despises. In Gage's grim story about murder and the fight for land reform in northern Brazil, the one comic note is the phone calls between detective Mario Silva and his dim, pompous supervisor, or director, who insists on being updated on Silva's investigation "twice daily, at noon and at six."
Camilleri makes the reasons for the missed meeting grow wilder and more elaborate. Gage has the harried director grow more and more exasperated, enumerating his woes as the news gets worse, the bodies pile up, and the possible repercussions for his own career grow ever more worrisome. The phone calls, made comic by their regularity, begin to affect Silva even when they don't arrive. Each author repeats the joke but varies it just enough each time to keep the reader interested, something like a musical theme and successive variations.
Before I offer one example each from The Paper Moon and Blood of the Wicked, you get your chance to weigh in. What running jokes do crime novelists use to add humor or release tension? How do they hold the reader's interest when repeating a joke throughout a novel?
"He said that 'cause they're having the furinal services for that sinator that died and seeing as how the c'mishner gotta be there poisonally in poisson, atta furinal. I mean, the c'mishner can't come to see youse like he said he was was gonna do. Unnastand, chief?"
"Perfectly, Cat."– The Paper Moon
"Good evening, Director."© Peter Rozovsky 2008
It wasn't the director.– Blood of the Wicked
Italian crime fiction
Brazilian crime fiction