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One Wrong Word


One Wrong Word

No one knows the import of ONE WRONG WORD more than Arden Ward in Hank Phillippi Ryan's latest novel. Arden has an unusual profession. She works for an agency that helps polish people's reputations so they can obtain better jobs, get on high-paying boards and escape bad press. Arden is especially good at what she does.

Surprisingly, Arden’s boss, Warren Carmichael, decides to let her go when Patience Swanson, the jealous and pampered wife of her real mogul client, Arthur Swanson, thinks that the Joy perfume Arden wears came from Arthur. But for her last job, Warren is offering Arden the chance to work with the "Garage Killer," as Ned is known. On New Year’s Eve, Ned killed a man who was skateboarding, running him over in the empty parking garage of his office building. He was not drunk, and with the help of his expensive defense attorney, he was acquitted by the jury. But the knowing looks and the snubs still hurt his wife, Cordelia, who is convinced that Arden can change the minds of those who believe Ned is guilty because of what they read in the press and on social media.

"The final twist is truly unexpected, and we ultimately are appreciative of the engrossing tale and the nail-biting ending."

From the start, we realize that something is off about Cordelia. She wants Arden to help with their reputation and the press, but she also would like her husband to be investigated. She keeps claiming that he's hiding something from her. Her actions and the information she shares lead us to wonder about both Cordelia and Ned.

When there is another car accident, this time involving Ned's defense attorney, Ned is the one in the hot seat. Cordelia is in Florida with her college friends, and their two children are with Ned's mother in Vermont. So to escape the press, Arden and Ned leave Boston for Vermont. During the trip, Arden gets to know Ned and see how he engages with his kids.

Arden is torn. She doesn't know whom to believe or trust. Ned seems like a great guy, a good father and a faithful husband. But Cordelia's insistence that he is keeping secrets and has a wandering eye for beautiful women causes Arden to distrust her instincts. She worries that women are the ones not believed. We always believe the men, and she doesn't want to be guilty of the same error.

As Arden keeps asking questions, her theories of the two cases veer wildly depending on what she has just learned. And while she's trying to figure it all out, she's bitterly emptying her office, angry that she has lost her job because of a lie. It doesn't matter that she wears Joy simply because it is the fragrance her late mother loved. Warren is firing her anyway. He has tossed her this one last case that just might give her a better bonus, but he discounts all that she has done for his company. We also learn more from the point of view of the assistant district attorney, Monelle Churchwood, as she helps us understand the big picture.

Hank Phillippi Ryan is a master at throwing curve balls that completely change our field of vision. We thought she was leading us in one direction, but as it turns out, she was providing clues that take us not only on a different path but to a different state entirely. We truly like Arden Ward and admire her ability to navigate difficult waters with the aplomb of a seasoned sea captain. The final twist is truly unexpected, and we ultimately are appreciative of the engrossing tale and the nail-biting ending.

Reviewed by Pamela Kramer on February 6, 2024

One Wrong Word
by Hank Phillippi Ryan