Debut fiction (subtitled —A Novel of Love and Addiction—) that triggers the same voyeuristic curiosity as a car wreck on the highway. This depressing tale of two Australian heroin junkies is hard to put down, even though it serves up enough bouts of blood, dingy needles, and heaving bowels to turn the hardiest stomach. Heroin is the first love, after all, of the aloof-guy narrator, who willingly shares some of his stash with his new girlfriend, Candy, a party-girl personality of little depth until book’s end. The honeymoon stage of this relationship is brief. Focused on feeding their ravenous habits, the couple runs out of money and loses one apartment after another until Candy is forced into prostitution so they can afford to buy more drugs. Her guy pulls his own weight in less tangible ways, arranging deals and pick-up times, swiping food from convenience stores, stealing the occasional wallet, and racking up bills on stolen credit cards. Earnest resolutions to quit are repeatedly scuttled as late-night TV gets tedious or a two-day hiatus from drugs tempts the addicts to treat themselves to just one more hit, and then another. When their veins cower so deep that it takes seven hours to find one suitable to inject, the narrator and his bride finally try weaning themselves from heroin with methadone. Painstaking withdrawal, though, coupled with relocation to a ramshackle farmhouse, fatally strains the relationship, and while the narrator has a fling with an 18-year-old, Candy suffers a nervous breakdown. When they finally manage to get off drugs, each does it separately. And their horrific dysfunctional marriage, fittingly, sputters to an end. Given the subject matter, it’s no surprise this Australian poet’s first novel—whatever its outrÇ demons—proves addictive.