BACKFIRE isn't just the title of this 1961 stand-alone novel by Dan J. Marlowe. It's what life has done to its protagonist, police detective Marty Donovan. Marty and his partner Tony Alfieri are on an unauthorized stake-out at a jewelry store, trying to catch an elusive thief who seems to have some connection to the security company that put in the store's alarm system. Things go wrong when the thief shows up, just as Marty and Tony expect, but Tony winds up dead and the killer gets away.
Marty figures he can't just call for help, for a couple of reasons. One, they weren't supposed to be there since they didn't set up the stake-out with their lieutenant, and two, Marty is having an affair with Tony's wife and he's afraid if that fact comes out, he'll be suspected of killing his own partner. So Marty decides to make things look different than they actually, keeping himself in the clear while he tries to track down the killer.
This isn't really a wise decision, because things just keep going wrong, the case gets more and more complicated, and Marty finds himself sinking deeper and deeper into trouble. But you knew that was going to happen, right?
BACKFIRE is a brisk little hardboiled crime novel. Marlowe's style is pretty plain and functional, but he keeps things moving along nicely and the plot has several layers. This isn't on the same level as THE NAME OF THE GAME IS DEATH, Marlowe's masterpiece and one of the best crime novels ever written, but it's certainly worth reading.