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--> ''Bad is the new good.''

''Incompetence'' is a BlackComedy novel by Rob Grant (of ''Series/RedDwarf'' fame).

Set TwentyMinutesIntoTheFuture, it takes place in The United States Of Europe, where {{political correctness|GoneMad}} has reached DystopianEdict levels, and laws have been passed that forbid the discrimination of people based on race, class, gender, creed or competence. Thus, a society has been born where ''everyone'' is bad at their job because employers aren't allowed to use someone's ''actual ability to do the job'' as a reason to hire/fire someone. Most shoes are made of vegetable matter, a hotel room will only have furniture in it if you're lucky (and be completely non-existent if you're not), and signposts rarely agree with each other, let alone point the correct way. As an added joke, one can track how many originally absurd rules from this book were actually realised by European Union between publishing and present.

The main character is a detective working for an un-named secret organisation who uses a variety of pseudonyms, most commonly "Harry Salt". Unlike most people, Salt is actually intelligent and competent at his job, but has grown to loathe it due to being the OnlySaneMan. His fellow agent and mentor "Klingferm" has been murdered, and Salt must track down his killer. Unfortunately, the world he lives in only seeks to hamper his efforts rather than help him in any way.

!!Incompetence contains examples of:

* {{Angrish}}: Captain Zuccho.
* AttentionDeficitOohShiny: The ticket salesman at the airport in Rome has this badly. Harry is unable to get a ticket from him, forcing him to use [[ObfuscatingStupidity other means]] to get on a flight.
* AuthorAvatar: Harry comes across as this for Grant to rant out at such things as seating on trains. The book is [[RuleOfFunny all the better for it though.]]
* BerserkButton: Asking Zuccho to calm down will only result in gunplay.
* BlatantLies: The RabidCop claiming the man they [[ImperialStormtrooperMarksmanshipAcademy attempted]] to blow up with a rocket launcher was brandishing a machine gun and shouting threats. He was actually already dead.
* BlindIdiotTranslation: In universe example with the manual for the central heating in Harry's flat.
* BoomHeadshot: Subverted. Harry [[spoiler: shoots Klingferm in the head, but he appears to survive it. Mostly]].
* BrokenPedestal: [[spoiler:Klingferm trained Harry in and was one of his contacts. Turns out he's an American agent out to subvert European interests.]]
* [[CIAEvilFBIGood CIA Evil, Europol Good]]: [[spoiler: Klingferm is a CIA agent trying to subvert Europe.]] Europol is basically the TransatlanticEquivalent to the FBI and, though we only see one agent, he's essentially not a bad guy and is only doing his job.
* CrapsackWorld: In a world where being incapable of actually doing your job will not disqualify you from it, nothing works properly. PoliceAreUseless, public services are full of {{Obstructive Bureaucrat}}s and taking a flight won't even get you to your intended destination without some mishap occurring.
* ChalkOutline: At the scene of a nasty accident, Harry sees a cop drawing chalk outlines around everything, including an eyeball that had got thrown from the wreckage. He gives it a {{lampshade|Hanging}}.
* ClickHello: Harry gets on the wrong end of a shotgun while searching through garbage.
* ClusterFBomb: Any conversation with Captain Zuccho.
* CutHisHeartOutWithASpoon: Harry threatens to strangle the mechanic with bubble wrap.
* DeadpanSnarker: Harry Salt.
* TheDragon: Wolfie.
* {{Eagleland}}: [[spoiler: Klingferm.]]
* EvilPlan: The society-hobbling PoliticalCorrectnessGoneMad is encouraged [[spoiler: by the American intelligence services, who believe that a cohesive Europe would be a serious rival to the USA's global power.]]
%% * FinaglesLaw
* FiringOneHanded: Averted. The only time Harry gets a gun, he needs both hands to keep his aim steady. Although, the implication is that said gun is a HandCannon.
* ForInconveniencePressOne: Every time Harry attempts to use the phone system in the Belize Hotel in Rome, he winds up being transferred to the restaurant. Including whenever the restaurant manager attempts to transfer him elsewhere.
* GenreSavvy: Harry has devised ways of using the CrapsackWorld to his advantage.
* GovernmentAgencyOfFiction: Europol, PCID (Police Corruption Investigation Division) and Harry's unnamed agency.
* IAteWhat: Subverted. Upon learning that the broth he was given earlier was made of office workers, Harry just dryly notes that "they're actually good for something".
* IHaveManyNames: Harry has several identities. Harry Salt is his core identity, which he avoids using in investigations. Throughout the book, he uses Harry Pepper, Harry Tequila and [[PunnyName Cardew Vascular]], though he implies using the name [[RepetitiveName Simon Simons]] at some point.
* ImAHumanitarian: 'Mission Man Broth.
* ImpersonatingAnOfficer: Harry's [=IDs=] are basically this. They're all fully traceable and have legitimate service records. His Harry Pepper ID gets deactivated without his prior knowledge and it gets him arrested by Europol.
* IncompetenceInc: The whole of Europe has become this after PoliticalCorrectnessGoneMad legislation. In particular, companies are prohibited from discriminating based on competence, so they aren't able to use a potential employee's ability to actually do the job as a hiring criteria.
%% * InherentInTheSystem
* InternalAffairs: PCID is this. Harry uses a PCID badge to get the files on the Fabrizi case.
* IronButtMonkey: Harry is an example of one as a protagonist. The amount of injuries he sustains over the course of the book leave him with some nasty scars.
* ItWorksBetterWithBullets: When Zuccho catches up with Harry in Paris, he pulls his gun on him and pulls the trigger. Turns out, he forgot to reload after the previous day's rant.
* LimitedAdvancementOpportunities: Basically, anybody who is any good at their job goes nowhere, while stupid, insane people are KickedUpstairs. Harry wonders how Salieri manages to make it up to Sergeant, but notes that he won't go any higher.
* LittleUselessGun: Wolfie's Derringer. Harry reckons it's only good for an {{eye s|cream}}hot at point blank range. Given Wolfie's sadistic nature, that's probably what he did use it for.
* MorallyAmbiguousDoctorate: Doctor Rutter, whose hobbies include taking the faces of dead people and transplanting them to the buttocks of other people.
* MsFanservice: Gina. She suffers from a mental condition known as "Sexually Inappropriate Response", which causes her to flirt with guests at the hotel where she works as a guest liaison. Harry tells her she looks better in [[SexyShirtSwitch his shirt than he does]].
* MythologyGag: Harry states that Zuccho makes Captain Bligh look like a management genius. Oslo used the same insult on Captain Gwent in ''Literature/{{Colony}}''.
* NeverFoundTheBody: Harry shoots [[spoiler: Klingferm]] [[BoomHeadshot in the head]], but he seems to survive it, despite a large chunk of his brain being splattered against the wall. He manages to escape, though Zuccho is sure that he's in no fit state to make any plans.
* NoNameGiven: Harry has abandoned his real name more than a decade ago and adopted Harry Salt as his "core identity" (ie. the name he mostly goes by). However, he tries to avoid using the Salt identity as much as he can when away, using Harry Pepper (which Zuccho knows him best as, referring to him as Pepperpot), Harry Tequila and Cardew Vascular (though he implies that Simon Simons is another name he's used before).
* NoOSHACompliance: Since Disneyland Austria was shut down, it's been left abandoned until the final confrontation between Harry and "Johnny Appleseed" [[spoiler: aka Dick Klingferm]]. The main attraction is rigged to collapse at a certain point and it's [[spoiler: Klingferm's]] intention to use it to kill Harry.
* ObfuscatingStupidity: Zuccho may possibly be this, as he is able to track Harry to Paris and Vienna. [[spoiler: Klingferm]] uses this (while disguised) against Harry as he tries to hire a car to get out of Paris. Harry himself uses this to get on board a plane to Paris from Rome.
* ObstructiveBureaucrat: The station master.
* OnlySaneMan:
** Salt, Klingferm.
** Also Sergeant Salieri. Harry notes that because he is the one smart cop in all of Italy, his promotion prospects are zero.
%% * PhlebotinumBreakdown
* PoliceAreUseless: And damn near everyone else.
* PoliticalCorrectnessGoneMad: Article 13199 of the Pan-European constitution states that no person may be excluded from any employment on the grounds of age, race, creed or incompetence. This leads to people holding jobs that they are entirely unsuitable for, such as airline pilots with vertigo, police officers who are either TooDumbToLive or fall under the RabidCop category and an old man holding a job as a PlayboyBunny.
* RabidCop:
** Captain Zuccho, who's trigger happy.
** Also, the German police in the Euronews chapter. They go a little overboard in [[MoreDakka their methods]] of apprehending a dead man.
** Superintendant Debary, who goes to ''restaurant inspections'' with a SWAT team in tow.
* RagingStiffie: Lupo, the waiter on the train, has priapism. He actually manages to clock Harry on the back of his head with his erection. Harry himself gets one when he meets [[TheTease Gina]] and notes that he might fall over dead should he try to stand up.
* RecklessGunUsage: Zuccho has a [[HairTriggerTemper nasty habit]] of ''opening fire'' when he's been [[BerserkButton told to calm down]].
* ShesGotLegs: Gina.
* ShockAndAwe: One of Wolfie's favourite weapons is a police stun stick with the safety stripped out. Harry uses it to great effect in the book's climax.
* ShoutOut: Harry Salt and Harry Tequila are names Harry chooses when drinking Tequila with Klingferm after he finishes his training. Klingferm advises him not to pick the name [[Film/TheThirdMan Harry Lime]]. Doubles as {{Foreshadowing}}, as Klingferm [[spoiler: is really the BigBad who fakes his own death]].
* SirSwearsALot: Captain Zuccho.
* SomethingCompletelyDifferent: The entire book is told in first person by Harry, except for two chapters. One is the USE's version of the Miranda Rights (with a dumbed down version), the other is a Euronews broadcast where German police [[MoreDakka shoot up a car]] with an [[ThereIsNoKillLikeOverkill already dead man behind the wheel]] before launching a rocket at it.....[[ImperialStormtrooperMarksmanshipAcademy and completely missing, instead destroying a nearby tanning factory.]]
* SuperIdentikit: Averted. Harry gets identikitted and the image is shown on Euronews. Luckily, it looks more like [[Film/PlanetOfTheApes Dr Zaius]] than Harry.
* SuspiciouslySpecificDenial: Superindendant Debary, who slept with all three daughters of a restaurant owner separately and all together (he even has written consent). [[SarcasmMode The fact that he was giving said restaurant a clean bill of health had nothing to do with it.]]
* ThereIsNoKillLikeOverkill: The German police in the Euronews chapter. Also Superintendant Debary of the Food Crimes squad, who goes to restaurant inspections armed to the teeth.
* TwentyMinutesIntoTheFuture: The setting of the story.
* UltimateJobSecurity: The whole point of Article 13199. Nobody can be fired for being bad at their job. Gina seems to be the only one whose job is in danger because she's a little ''too'' [[TheTease good at her job]].
* UnitConfusion: Doctor Rutter's descriptions of the corpses has them all a metre taller than the average human being. This can be handwaved as Rutter being insane, as he's more concerned with transplanting faces to buttocks than doing any work.
* UnitedEurope
* VomitIndiscretionShot: The entire dinner party incident is an extended version, and also features a VomitChainReaction.
* WithThisHerring
* WorstAid: Harry fakes a heart attack to try and get a free upgrade to business class on a flight. Unfortunately, the stewards decide to administer "CPU" to him, which involves choking him with his own tie, then beating on his chest several times, winding him. It's only by sheer fluke that Harry comes out of it alive.
* WriterOnBoard: can come across as an anti-EU screed at times.
* YouDoNotHaveToSayAnything: Spoofed when the caution takes up an entire chapter and basically amounts to "anything you say (or don't say) means you're both guilty and fully understand your rights". There is also a simplified version, for suspects who don't understand the full version:
--> "You don't have to say anything, but if you don't, bad things will happen to you. You can ask for a lawyer, but if you do, bad things will happen to you. Do you understand, or shall I read the full version again?"