End of the Road
by LS Hawker
on Tour January 30th – February 28, 2017
Great minds can change the world
or leave it in ruins . . .
When tech prodigy Jade Veverka creates a program to communicate with her autistic sister, she’s tapped by a startup to explore the potential applications of her technology. But Jade quickly begins to notice some strange things about the small Kansas town just beyond the company’s campus—why are there no children anywhere to be seen, and for that matter, anyone over the age of forty? Why do all of the people living here act uncomfortable and jumpy?
On the way home one night, Jade and her co-worker are run off the road, and their lab and living spaces are suddenly overrun with armed guards, purportedly for their safety. Confined to the compound and questioning what her employers might be hiding from her, Jade fears she’s losing control not only of her invention, but of her very life. It soon becomes clear that the threat reaches far beyond Jade and her family, and the real danger is much closer than she’d ever imagined.
Jade Veverka accepts, what in her mind is, the ultimate job to continue the research of her AI program that she developed for her autistic sister Clementine. But soon things aren’t what they appear to be and those close to her are being threatened, or even worse, murdered.
This is the first book I have read by this author and thoroughly enjoyed it. The suspense kept me glued to this book. I am looking forward to reading more titles by this author.
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: January 31st 2017
Number of Pages: 384
ISBN: 006243523X (ISBN13: 9780062435231)
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗
Read an excerpt:
Jade Veverka unwrapped the frozen bomb pop she’d bought from the gas station on the corner of Main and 3rd and took a bite. She sat gazing at the pile of magazines on the barbershop coffee table while a rhythmic alarm-clock buzz went off in her head. Not an urgent warning, just buzz buzz buzz.
Her friend and coworker Elias Palomo sat in the barber chair, getting his customary fade crew cut, the same one he’d presumably sported since his plebe days at the Naval Academy. So the background to her mental alarm clock was an actual buzzing from the electric razor punctuated now by a sharp yip of pain from Elias.
“Sorry about that,” the barber said.
Elias rubbed his ear, and Jade attempted to keep her face neutral, looking at his scowl in the mirror.
Buzz buzz buzz.
She leaned forward and fanned the magazines—Popular Mechanics, Sports Illustrated, ESPN—all this month’s issues. Jade took another bite of bomb pop and grinned.
“What are you smiling at?” Elias grumbled, rubbing his nicked ear.
“I don’t know how to tell you this,” Jade said, “but you are not the center of my universe. I do occasionally react to things outside of you. I know it comes as a shock.”
“Shut up,” he said, his dark eyes flashing.
Jade stared now in fascination as the razor tracked upwards on Elias’s skull, his glossy black hair—or what was left of it—uneven, his scalp an angry pink. This guy was the worst hair dresser Jade had ever seen. And the least talkative. In her experience, growing up in rural Ephesus, Kansas, barbers had always fit the stereotype—gregarious and gossipy.
Elias was the shop’s lone customer, and only a few folks walked by outside the window, through which Jade could see the hardware store and the occasional slow passing car.
Buzz buzz buzz.
It struck Jade now that this was less a barbershop than what amounted to a barbershop museum, complete with an actor playing the part of the barber. She wanted to point this out to Elias, but it would mean nothing to him. He’d grown up in Reno, Nevada, a vast metropolis compared to Jade’s 1200-population hometown an hour southeast of this one, which was called Miranda, Kansas.
Not only was this man not a barber, he wasn’t a Kansan either, Jade would have bet money.
“Hey,” she said to him. “What’s your name?”
The man went on butchering as if she hadn’t spoken. Elias’s eyes met Jade’s in the mirror, and his dark thick brows met on either side of a vertical crease, his WTF? wrinkle. He leaned his head away from the razor, finally making the barber pay attention.
“The lady asked you a question,” Elias said.
Jade had to hold in a guffaw. This never failed to tickle her, him referring to her as a lady. No one other than him had ever done that before. Plus she loved the authoritative rumble of his voice, a trait he’d probably developed at Annapolis.
The barber froze, his eyes locked with Elias’s. Weird.
“Need a prompt?” Elias said. “Your name.”
The man cleared his throat.
“Is it classified?”
Jade did guffaw this time, and she watched the barber’s jaw muscles compress as she clapped a hand over her mouth.
“My name’s Richard.”
“Hello, Richard, I’m Elias. This is Jade. We work out at SiPraTech.”
Jade could see from Richard’s face he knew very well where they worked. He nodded and got back to destroying the remains of Elias’s hair.
“Whereabouts you from, Richard?” Jade said.
He pulled the razor away from Elias’s head and blinked at her.
What in the world was this guy’s problem?
Buzz buzz buzz.
Elias emitted a loud sigh, clearly exasperated by the guy’s reticence, and waved a hand as if to say, “Carry on, barber-not-barber.”
Jade laughed again.
“Here,” Richard mumbled. “I’m from here.”
Like hell. What was he, in the witness protection program or something?
And then it hit her. The magazines, every last one of them, was a current issue. In a barbershop. The place where back issues of magazines go to die.
She’d worked for SiPraTech just over three months now, and Miranda, the closest town, had always given her an itch. Something about it was slightly off, but she couldn’t say what. She’d brought it up to her team members—Elias, Berko Deloatch, and Olivia Harman, and each of them had looked at her like she was schitzy. They all came from big cities, so Miranda struck them as weird in general.
Buzz buzz buzz buzz buzz buzz.
As if drawn by static electricity, her eyes tracked to the window where a man in mirrored shades peered into the barbershop. The man had a dark mustache and wore a blue baseball cap pulled low over the sunglasses.
What was he staring at? She glanced behind her, but there was nothing to see but a white wall. When she turned back, the man mouthed something at her, his exaggerated soundless enunciation wringing a sharp intake of breath from her.
“What?” Elias said in response to her gasp.
Was it her imagination, or did this man she’d never seen before say her name?
She looked at Elias, and said, “There’s a man out there—”
LS HAWKER grew up in suburban Denver, indulging her worrisome obsession with true-crime books, and writing stories about anthropomorphic fruit and juvenile delinquents. She wrote her first novel at 14.
Armed with a B.S. in journalism from the University of Kansas, she had a radio show called “People Are So Stupid,” edited a trade magazine and worked as a traveling Kmart portrait photographer, but never lost her passion for fiction writing.
She’s got a hilarious, supportive husband, two brilliant daughters, and a massive music collection. She lives in Colorado but considers Kansas her spiritual homeland. She is the author of The Drowning Game, a USA Today Bestseller, and Body and Bone.
Q&A with LS Hawker
Writing and Reading:
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
Yes, and yes. My characters get to experience a lot of the things I’ve experienced (*laughs and rubs hands together evilly*). My second novel, BODY AND BONE, dealt with online trolls and Internet bullying, which is a current phenomenon. My newest release, END OF THE ROAD, is centered around self-propagating computer programs and nerd pop culture.
Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
I usually have a vague idea of how the story is going to end, although with my debut, THE DROWNING GAME, it ended up in a place I never could have foreseen at when I started writing, because things happened that I hadn’t anticipated leading up to it.
Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?
Absolutely. In THE DROWNING GAME, Randy, a definite bad guy, is based on a friend’s ex-boyfriend. When she and I would go out, he would hunt us down. One night he drank an entire fifth of Jack Daniel’s and drove around looking for us. When he found us, we tried to get his car keys from him, and he grabbed me by the face and shoved me down into the street. Not a nice guy.
On the other end of the spectrum is my second novel BODY AND BONE’s Isabeau, who’s based on my friend Liz. I really struggled writing my second, because it was the first time I’d written to deadline. So having Liz there in my mind and heart as I wrote was a calming, light influence, just as her character is to my protag in the book.
I’ve had friends actually ask me to put them into my novels.
Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
I write standing a lot, as I have an electric height-adjustable desk. My office ceiling is covered in Christmas lights, I burn scented candles, and I binge write, sometimes for 15+ hours at a time.
Tell us why we should read this book.
If you like twisting, unpredictable narratives, tech, nerd culture references, ethnically diverse characters, and high peril, this is the book for you. If you don’t, you should read it anyway.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
There are so many, but here’s a partial list. I love Gregg Hurwitz, Liane Moriarty, Gilly Macmillan, Harlan Coben, Tom Wolfe, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Nick Hornby, Ira Levin, Michael Crichton, John Steinbeck, and Anne Tyler.
What are you reading now?
Just finished FEAR THE WORST by Linwood Barclay. I’ve been binge-reading him over the last month—five of his books. His plots are consistently interesting, his characters real and funny, and his pacing outstanding. Yes, I’m a fan.
Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
I’m rewriting an old manuscript right now, one that includes a couple of secondary characters from THE DROWNING GAME—Uncle Curt Dekker and Petty’s lawyer, George Engle—as young men in the 1980s. George wakes up behind a burning house with a gun in his hand and no recollection of how he got there. Curt comes to his aid in the most unconventional of ways.
Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
This is always a hard question for me, because I like to think that my characters would be played by unknown actors. But if pressed, I’d say Hailee Steinfeld would probably do END OF THE ROAD’s Jade proud.
Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
Movies, parties, live music, more parties. Oh, and reading, of course.
Whenever we’re celebrating, we go for crab legs with a side of artichokes.
Thank you for stopping by CMash Reads and spending time with us.
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Check Out This Awesome Giveaway:
This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for LS Hawker and William Morrow. There will be 3 US winners of one (1) eBook Coupon for End of the Road by LS Hawker. The giveaway begins on January 24th and runs through March 2nd, 2017.
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