One Wrong Word
February 23, 2024

Book Review

One Wrong Word

reviewed by Valerie J. Brooks | Goodreads


“Words could be as deadly as a gun or a knife. If your reputation is murdered!”

In Hank Phillippi Ryan’s 16th psychological thriller One Wrong Word, she brings to life Arden Ward, a savvy crisis management expert, who is falsely accused of having an affair with a client. She is given two weeks to leave. Now Arden needs to redeem her reputation and save her professional life. She is aware that her flaw is caring too much, which can be a curse in her profession. Plus, her father has instilled in her the idea of using conscience as her north star. So, she is angry at and heartbroken with her boss, her mentor, Warren Carmichael, who sacrificed Arden’s good work and loyalty to keep his wealthiest client who accused her of the affair based on nothing but the smell of perfume.

Carmichael offers her a deal: take on a special client, Cordelia Bannister, and save Cordelia’s husband’s reputation in two weeks. Arden believes that if she accomplishes this, Carmichael will keep her on at the firm.

Cordelia’s husband Ned was accused of murder but acquitted. He drove drunk after a New Year’s party, and as he was exiting the private parking garage, he hit Randall Tennant who was skateboarding. Public opinion, however, has ruined him. A distraught and publicly shunned Cordelia wants Arden to clean up his reputation.

Arden is so focused on saving her own job, however, that she’s lost her professional insight and doesn’t see how much she’s being manipulated by the people around her. When Ned’s lawyer, Naomi, is run down in a parking garage, the coincidence is too much to ignore, especially for Detective Monelle Churchwood who thought Ned was guilty of Randall’s death from the beginning.

To finally figure out who is pulling strings and putting her clients in danger, Arden must focus and use her expert skills in reading people. When she does, she suspects the worst and finds her life in danger.

From Phillippi Ryan’s many years as an investigative reporter, she expertly digs into the world of greed, power, manipulation, and secrets and then twists them into a tale of life and love gone horribly wrong. Arden and Monelle are strongly drawn characters who must learn that instead of being at odds, they must work together to find out the truth.

Phillippi Ryan’s writing, as in her other novels, shines with details that bring the story to life such as how she uses her beloved Boston as a setting. She creatively gives Arden a large tank of fish instead of a cat or dog. The perfume JOY lingers with its scent throughout and is the cause of the accusation against Arden. Arden’s backstory is rich with possibilities as she is the granddaughter of the mayor of Boston and lives in an 1885 house bequeathed by her grandparents. At times the story slows with repetition, but otherwise, One Wrong Word gives us the fascinating world of Arden and how she manages crises and what that entails. Public opinion is a “beast to be controlled” and that is something everyone can relate to. Arden Ward and her professional world in One Wrong Word would make an intriguing start to a series.

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