I've read 20 or so of Lawrence Block's 130+ novels, and this one has the best opening hook I've seen yet: A man wakes up from an alcohol-induced blackout next to a dead hooker. He doesn't know if he killed her, or if he's being framed. The door is locked from the inside, and the police are coming. And, oh yeah, this has happened to him once before...
If that premise doesn't draw you right in, then I don't know what will. Andy Penn spends a few hectic days trying to elude capture and combing through his past to figure out who might be framing him and why. As you might expect, he's uncovers more than a few secrets and unearths a whole cast of suspicious and unsavory associates.
As crime noir, this book is pitch-perfect. The author has nailed the atmosphere of desperation and violence and futility. The ending is both bleak and hopeful at the same time. As a mystery, it's fairly by-the-numbers but Block is a good enough writer to keep you asking questions and turning pages. It helps that the narrator (and thus the reader) never knows, until the very end, whether he himself could in fact be as guilty as he appears.
The only missing element that prevents this book from being a true noir classic is that Block never lets us glimpse why Alex is so driven to compulsive drinking and whoring. We never learn why a man who had such a seemingly good life became so self-destructive in the first place. Interestingly, Block mentions in the afterward that he wrote this book as a young man, at a time in his life when he battled the same addictions. It is entirely possible he did not understand the demons that controlled his own life, much less that of his fictional protagonist.