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Bad is the new good.
Set Twenty Minutes Into the Future, it takes place in The United States Of Europe, where political correctness has reached its logical conclusion, 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 added joke, one can track how many originally absurd rules from 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 Only Sane Man. 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:
- And Now for Something Completely Different: 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 shoot up a car with an already dead man behind the wheel before launching a rocket at it.....and completely missing, instead destroying a nearby tanning factory.
- Angrish: Captain Zuccho.
- Author Avatar: Harry comes across as this for Grant to rant out at such things as seating on trains. The book is all the better for it though.
- Boom! Headshot!: Subverted. Harry shoots Klingferm in the head, but he appears to survive it. Mostly
- Broken Pedestal: Klingferm.
- Crapsack World
- Chalk Outline: 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.
- Deadpan Snarker: Harry Salt.
- Dangerously Genre Savvy: Klingferm, until the end.
- Firing One-Handed: 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 Hand Cannon.
- Fridge Brilliance: When Zuccho fires his Glock in anger, he empties the magazine in around six shots, whereas it has a capacity of seventeen. Given that he forgets to reload the next day, it's probably not the first time that week that Zuccho has gone on a shooting spree.
- Genre Savvy: Harry has devised ways of using the Crapsack World to his advantage.
- Eagle Land
- Evil Plan: The society-hobbling Political Correctness Gone Mad is encouraged by the American intelligence services, who believe that a cohesive Europe would be a serious rival to the USA's global power.
- Finagle's Law
- For Inconvenience Press One
- Government Agency of Fiction: Europol, PCID (Police Corruption Investigation Division) and Harry's unnamed agency.
- Inherent in the System
- It Works Better with Bullets: 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.
- Little Useless Gun: Wolfie's Derringer. Harry reckons it's only good for an eye shot at point blank range. Given Wolfie's sadistic nature, that's probably what he did use it for.
- Morally-Ambiguous Doctorate: Doctor Rutter, whose hobbies include taking the faces of dead people and transplanting them to the buttocks of other people.
- Ms. Fanservice: 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 his shirt than he does.
- No Kill Like Overkill: The German police in the Euronews chapter. Also Superintendant De Barry of the Food Crimes squad, who goes to restaurant inspections armed to the teeth.
- No Name Given: 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).
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Zuccho may possibly be this, as he is able to track Harry to Paris and Vienna. 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.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: The station master.
- Only Sane Man: Salt, Klingferm.
- Also Sergeant Salieri. Harry notes that because he is the one smart cop in all of Italy, his promotion prospects are zero.
- No OSHA Compliance
- Phlebotinum Breakdown
- Police Are Useless: And damn near everyone else.
- Political Correctness Gone Mad
- Rabid Cop: Captain Zuccho, who's trigger happy.
- Also, the German police in the Euronews chapter. They go a little overboard in their methods of apprehending a dead man.
- Shock and Awe: 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.
- Shout-Out: 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 Harry Lime. Doubles as Foreshadowing, as Klingferm is really the Big Bad who fakes his own death.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: Superindendant Debary, who slept with all three daughters of a restaurant owner separately and all together (he even has written consent). The fact that he was giving said restaurant a clean bill of health had nothing to do with it.
- The Dragon: Wolfie.
- Twenty Minutes Into the Future
- United Europe
- With This Herring
- Writer on Board: can come across as an anti-EU screed at times.
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: The entire dinner party incident is an extended version.