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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

One Wrong Word

Narrator: Gail Shalan

Macmillan Audio

ISBN: 978-1250849496

Publisher: Forge Books

Publication Date: 02/06/2024

Format: Other

My Rating: 5 Stars (ARC)

FEB FEATURED #AuthorElevatorSeries

A heart-racing new psychological thriller from USA Today bestselling and multiple award-winning author, Hank Phillippi Ryan.

One wrong word can ruin your life. And no one knows that better than savvy crisis management expert Arden Ward. Problem is, she's now forced to handle a shocking crisis of her own. Unfairly accused of having an affair with a powerful client, Arden’s life and dreams are about to crash and burn. Then, Arden is given an ultimatum. She has just two weeks to save her career and her reputation.

Is Cordelia Bannister the answer to her prayers?

Cordelia needs Arden’s help for her husband Ned, a Boston real estate mogul. Though he was recently acquitted in a fatal drunk driving accident, his reputation is ruined, and the fallout is devastating not only to the Bannisters' lives, but the lives of their two adorable children.

Arden devotes her skill and determination―and maybe her final days on the job―to helping this shattered family, but soon, revelations begin to emerge about what really happened the night of the accident. And then―another car crash throws Ned back into the spotlight.

This case is Arden’s final chance to protect her own future and clear her name. But the more she tries to untangle the truth, the more she’s haunted by one disturbing question―what if she’s also protecting a killer?

Gossip. Lies. Rumors. Words like that can hurt you. And Arden knows the reality. Sometimes one wrong word can kill.

About the Author

Author Photo: Iden Ford

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the USA Today bestselling author of 15 psychological thrillers, winning the most prestigious awards in the genre: five Agathas, five Anthonys, and the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. She is also on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s WHDH-TV, with 37 EMMYs and dozens more journalism honors. National book critics call her “a superb and gifted storyteller” and “master of suspense.” She’s the only author to win the Agatha in four categories: Best First, Best Novel, Best Short Story and Best Non-Fiction. Her newest is the page-turning standalone thriller One Wrong Word—a twisty non-stop story of gaslighting, manipulation, and murder. David Baldacci says, “A story with all the goods… Buckle up and read.” B.A. Paris says, “A gripping rollercoaster of a read… This is Hank at her very best!” And James Patterson says, “If you’re looking for riveting suspense that keeps you up late—in One Wrong Word you get your wish.”

Hank is a founder of MWA University, host of CRIME TIME on A Mighty Blaze, and co-host of First Chapter Fun and The Back Room. Visit Hank online at, on Twitter @HankPRyan, on Instagram @hankpryan and Facebook at HankPhillippiRyanAuthor.

Connect with Hank:

Exceptional Authors. Standout Books. Elevator Talk.


"Behind the Book & The Author"

With Bestselling Award-Winning Author Hank Phillippi Ryan

Welcome to the first February 2024 #AuthorElevatorSeries and joining us for the fifth time, a personal and fan favorite, special guest author, Hank Phillippi Ryan with her fifteenth novel, a highly anticipated heart-racing cat-and-mouse psychological thriller, ONE WRONG WORD.

ELECTRIFYING! Another stellar psychological thriller by Powerhouse HPR, the master of cat-and-mouse thrillers! Hank DAZZLES. Fresh, clever, chilling, and intense. Hank's best yet! Prime for the small or big screen.

Join us as Hank shares some fascinating behind-the-scenes exclusives from the book and fun moments from this award-winning author.

Welcome, Hank!

Behind the Book

Q. Give us your best ELEVATOR PITCH for ONE WRONG WORD.

HANK: Oh, for some reason, giving a tiny synopsis is the hardest I will practice on you!

One wrong word can ruin your life, and no one knows that better than crisis management expert Arden Ward --because she's now forced to manage a crisis in her own life. She's been accused of having a scandalous affair with the client –it’s not true! –but she’s given two weeks to save her career. Her assignment is to repair the reputation of Ned Bannister, a powerful Boston real estate mogul who has just been acquitted in a vehicular homicide. But even though the jury found him not guilty, the court of public opinion still thinks of him as the Parking Garage Killer - and that's ruining his life. And his wife's life. (Just ask her.) And the lives of his two adorable children.

So Arden devotes what may be her last two weeks on the job to helping the shattered family. and convincing the public that Ned Bannister is actually a good guy. But as the truth begins to emerge, so do Arden’s doubts-- might be might she be staking her career on protecting a killer?

In five phrases? A crisis management expert with a crisis of her own. A shocking and salacious rumor. A controversial jury verdict. A gorgeous brownstone on Beacon Hill. And the devastating power of public opinion.

Bottom line: two smart strong people face off in a high stakes psychological cat and mouse game to prove their truth about a deadly crime --but which character is the cat, and which character is the mouse?

Q. DESCRIBE your novel in three words or less.

HANK: Scandal. Empowerment. And revenge.

Q. INSPIRATION: Do tell. We cannot wait. What was the spark that ignited ONE WRONG WORD? Where were you when the idea came to you?

HANK: Well, this is pretty interesting. And pretty personal.

When I was about 19, one of my first jobs in the real world was in a political campaign. Very high pressure, very high stakes, very fast-paced. I was a worker bee, and I absolutely loved it. But one day I overheard a conversation between two campaign big wigs, and they were gossiping about another powerful man in the campaign. We'll call him Jim, not his real name.

The first man said “I hear Jim has a big crush on Hank. And if his wife ever hears about it, it's going to be a disaster.”

WHAT? I was completely baffled! This was completely news to me, I had no idea, and certainly would never be involved in such a thing. I was horrified.

But then the second man said something like: “Well, I guess we'll have to fire Hank.”

And I thought what? Fire me? Fire me? Seems to me that Jim is the one who has to go.

Well, no one got fired, and nothing untoward ensured, and the campaign ended, and we all went our separate ways. But, as I said, that moment has stayed with me so powerfully. I had done absolutely nothing wrong, yet I was the expendable one.

But –and here’s the hilarious part! It never crossed my mind that the book was about that, until partway through and I realized--ohh, I see now! I'm writing about what happened to me. I'm writing to set things right. I'm writing about what I wish I would have done when I was that age.

My books are often about women getting their power back, so maybe, even after all these years, this was a way to get mine back.

Q. CAT-AND-MOUSE: Hank, you are known in the ‘book world’ as the “master of cat-and-mouse” psychological thrillers. And your latest is a prime example. As a pro, in your opinion, what makes for a GREAT cat-and-mouse thriller?

HANK: Oh, thank you! I try to make my books as much like the real world as possible, and the characters as relatable as possible. And the key to our lives is that we all want something, right? But the big dilemma is: how far will we go to get it? And what if what we want conflicts with what someone else wants?

That conflict, that clashing of desire, is what makes a good thriller.

“Cat and mouse” means someone is involved in a high-stakes psychological war, with no holds barred, and potential danger to whoever gets in the way.

Now, I know my readers are smart! So my job is to be entertaining, and engaging, and twisty--and keep people wondering whose side they should be on, and what surprises are yet to be revealed.

After 43 years as a reporter, I also know there are really three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth. And since that’s true, what's fun for me is to reveal the side of the story you the reader may not have expected.

And then--whoosh!--the whole picture puzzle appears a different way. And I want you to think “Wow—I should have seen that coming! But I didn’t.”

Q. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT: Your favorite character to write, and/or most challenging?

HANK: Impossible! I adore Arden Ward, of course, she’s so fearless and smart and kickass. But the District Attorney Monelle Churchwood–super-tough, super-devoted, and super-ruthless--was a voice that just came barreling through. She's a treasure! And if I ever write more about Arden, you can be sure Monelle will be there too.

Q. ADAPTATION: For fun, do you have any cast of stars in mind for any of your leading roles for movie or TV series?

HANK: Arden Ward is certainly Tea Leoni! And Monelle Churchwood could be Cush Jumbo—I’d adore to see that. And oh, Billy Crudup is PERFECT for Ned.

Q. WRITING: Do you have a favorite chapter or scene in the novel you enjoyed writing the most?

HANK: I love the scene where Arden gets fired -- and this is no spoiler, it's on the back cover! But what I had such fun writing was when—and how--Arden fights back.

The way I didn't when I was a teenager, remember?

Arden understands her own power, and her own place in the world. There's a quote about ‘you can't control what the world does to you, but you can control how you react to it.. That was my whole essence of Arden-- she's a savvy crisis management expert, whose job is to set things back into equilibrium when things go wrong.

But I knew she would be challenged when she discovers she has a scandalous crisis in her own life. So ONE WRONG WORD is her journey to get her power back.

So when you all find that scene in the book, let me know what you think! And tell me what you would have done! (And its especially fun to hear that scene in the audio version!)

Q. TAKEAWAY: What important message, theme, or takeaway would you like readers to be left with when reading your book?

HANK: How many of us have had someone say something about us that's just not true? Something so devastating and so upsetting and so horrifying that we just did not know what to say?

When we were little kids, we would go to our parents and say what should I do?

Now, as adults, we know there are people who make a living giving advice in a crisis situation--to a movie star, or a politician, or a bigwig executive. Some of those crisis management experts are incredibly honorable and knowledgeable, like Arden, of course. Others… not so much.

So I hope my readers get an insight into the power of persuasion, and how easily public opinion can be swayed. It is honestly terrifying.

Q. FAVORITE THING: What is your favorite thing about your new novel?

HANK: This is a very tough question-- because it's a thing I cannot tell you! But there is one scene where something happens, and I was so surprised when I wrote it that I stood up and applauded. SO funny! I was by myself in my study, typing away, and when I got this idea I literally gasped. I will give you a clue: it happens in the treehouse.

Q. UPCOMING: Can you share what you are currently working on or what is next in ten words or less (or more)?

HANK: Well, breaking news. I just made a very exciting deal for books 16 and 17! Book 16 is called ALL THIS COULD BE YOURS, and it’s about a debut author with a surprise bestseller who is sent on a national (but grueling) book tour --only to realize she has a destructive manipulative stalker who is determined to destroy her career and ruin her family back home.

I'm so thrilled about it! But it's pretty funny that I'm now about to go on national book tour myself. So I'll try not to think about that.

Q. Is there anything else you would like to add that we have not covered today?

HANK: Speaking of book tour! I am on the road for more than a month--hoping to see all of you and chat about ONE WRONG WORD. Check my website for all the info.

Please find me on Instagram and Facebook, and let's make sure we can meet in person!

And oh—if you “read” audio books—I have a surprise for you! I went to the recording studio and read my acknowledgement. So you will hear my voice at the end of the book. It was incredibly fun.

Fascinating! Now, more up close and personal from Hank.

Keep reading below!

Behind the Author

BIRTH STATE? or (Country)







Libra. Someone once asked me if I was a class Libra, and I said: well, yes and no. But it’s a great sign for a reporter, right?



We have a backyard swimming pool, and every March, mallards come to visit for a month or two!  They swim in the pool, and waddle around, and we feed them. They have come every year for the past 24 years, isn't that wonderful? Two of them we have named, Flo and Eddy. And they are one of the joys of my life.



White tulips. I am instantly peaceful when I see them.



Once someone gave me an apple corer for a Secret Santa gift. I thought: this is the worst gift ever! But I tried it. And now I am in love with the apple corer. I cannot live without it!

Also, did you know you can push out the core and stem of a strawberry using a straw? It's incredible! E-mail me if you want to know how.



Really good red wine. Truffle French fries. Pizza with pepperoni and extra cheese. A really good grilled cheese sandwich. French bread with sweet butter. Coffee ice cream. Lattes. Should I go on? I really could go on. :) 



Night. Totally night. I think it comes from being on the 11:00 news for so many years period my brain really goes into gear about two in the afternoon. At 5:00 in the morning -- well, 5:00 in the morning is still yesterday.



Well, I love dogs, but I have always had cats, until my husband was allergic. My legendary cat Lola, and the adorable Leon. Best cats ever.



Hobby. I have no idea what a hobby is. I have no hobbies. I am laughing, but I love to walk in the garden, and arrange the flowers I pick from it, and I love to cook. But maybe my favorite hobby, besides reading, is sleeping.



You never know what wonderful thing is around the next corner.



I am pretty musically eclectic! And like just about anything. I know all the words to every Beatles song and also to every Broadway musical of my era. I adore Paul Simon, and Linda Ronstadt, Joni Mitchell, and Judy Collins, and Stephen Sondheim and Rogers & Hart.  Anything Ella Fitzgerald sings.  (And yes, I do love Taylor Swift!)




Favorite song in the world? Impossible question!  Defying Gravity, certainly. Running on Empty. A Weekend in the Country.  Never Getting Married. Crescent City. Someday Soon.   I could go on!



I would be too tongue-tied! What do we say to famous people anyway? But I adore Lee Child, and Lisa Jewell, and Ruth Ware, and Lisa Scottoline, and I would love to be stuck in an elevator with any of them!  And I’m sorry I missed Steven Sondheim. And Agatha Christie. And Edith Wharton.



Murder on the Orient Express. I remember it perfectly, I think I was about 12, and I thought--someday I want to write a book as surprising and satisfying and fair as this one! I am still working on it, but Agatha Christie was my guiding star. 



I think I'm hilariously funny, even if no one else really does. Don't tell.



I can ruin any joke. I really can. It's ridiculous. I always forget the punch lines.



I love them all! It just depends on where I'm reading! I always read digital books on the treadmill, and I can tell if a book is fabulous because I forget how long I've been exercising!


FAVORITE TV SERIES? (Or Movie/Video) binge-watch, series, etc.?

Ohhhh, Line of Duty. The Wire. Better Call Saul. Ozark. Call My Agent. Game of Thrones.  Succession. The Good Place.   I try not to binge watch, really, I try to savor each show, and not power through all at once, but sometimes that is very difficult!




An Exotic Tropical Island

I love writing near water --we love to go to Nevis, and I love to sit on the verandah, with the Caribbean so close I can hear the waves, with my hat and umbrella and a bottle of Ting, and get carried away in my book.  But my husband can be there, too, right?




Edith Wharton by Hermione Lee  (or—maybe that’s not a surprise.)



An unopened bottle of white wine, which was a gift from Sue Grafton.



Never never never. I can't do it. Even though I spent 43 years as a reporter, writing with absolute chaos all around me all the time, bells clanging and sirens wailing, in hurricanes and blizzards, and in the backseats of cars--when I write fiction it has to be quiet.

I guess I can write in coffee shops, though, it's fun to just tune everything out. I'm not quite sure why coffee shops are so conducive to writing, when every place else I try, it has to be quiet.

YOUR FAVORITE SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM? (Or would you prefer none of them)?

I'm most comfortable on Facebook, I guess,  @ HankPhillippiRyanAuthor. But I do love Instagram, too! @HankPRyan



Fifteen—and books sixteen and seventeen are now under contract! YAY!



Introvert. Totally. I know, it’s surprising. But the scariest thing in the word to me is a cocktail party.



Waitress at the Dairy Queen. Proofreader at a publishing company. Legislative assistant in the United States Senate. Reporter for Rolling Stone magazine.  Radio reporter. And 43 years as an investigative reporter for television



Grateful. Determined. Happy.

THANK YOU, Hank, for spending time with us today!

HANK: And, darling Judith, I am so thrilled and honored to be here with you... thank you so much! It is a joy to know you all.

Join Hank on Tour!

Check her website for more details!


"An intricately plotted ticking time bomb of cat and mouse that will leave you breathless. Masterful storytelling and relentless pacing come together in a chilling tale of deception, manipulation, and paranoia. Ryan is at the top of her game with One Wrong Word––this is your next must-read!”

―Liv Constantine, internationally bestselling author of The Last Mrs. Parrish

“A story with all the goods―great characters, blistering pace, powered by prose that cuts right to the nerve…Buckle up and read.” ―David Baldacci

"Smart, propulsive, and unique…One Wrong Word grabbed me on the first page and didn’t let go. Ryan never fails to amaze me."

―Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author of Just the Nicest Couple

“If you're looking for riveting suspense that keeps you up late―in One Wrong Word you get your wish.”

―James Patterson

“Tense and twisty--hard to put down!"

―Shari Lapena, internationally bestselling author of Everyone Here is Lying and The Couple Next Door

"A page-turner from start to finish, One Wrong Word had me flying through the pages, pausing only to catch my breath. Not to be missed!"

―Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times bestselling author of The Overnight Guest

"Propulsive and bingeable, One Wrong Word kept me guessing to the very end."

―Ana Reyes, New York Times bestselling author of A House in the Pines

“One Wrong Word is a sublime cat-and-mouse thriller that had me turning the pages as fast as I was switching allegiances, all while trying (and failing) to figure out who to trust. Hank Phillippi Ryan proves once again that she’s at the top of her game, and a master of suspense! Not to be missed.”

―Hannah Mary McKinnon, internationally bestselling author of The Revenge List

"Driven by astutely drawn characters and fueled by a masterful plot, One Wrong Word had me guessing until the very last page. Hank Phillippi Ryan knows how to keep readers on the edge of their seats, and she does it again with this pulse pounding thriller. Bravo!"

―Wendy Walker, bestselling author of What Remains

"I have one right word for One Wrong Word by the amazing Hank Phillippi Ryan - fabulous!! A gripping rollercoaster of a read that will have you switching allegiances with every turn of the page. This is Hank at her very best―another brilliant book!"

―B.A. Paris, New York Times bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors

My Review

WOW! ONE WRONG WORD is Electrifying! Another stellar psychological thriller winner by Powerhouse (favorite author) Hank Phillippi Ryan, the queen of cat-and-mouse thrillers! Hank DAZZLES.

Fresh, clever, chilling, and intense, ONE WRONG WORD is Hank's best yet!

One WRONG word can ruin your life, and Arden Ward knows this all too well as a savvy crisis PR management expert. However, this time, her challenge is close to home. Words have power, and the wrong words can be devastating.

Unfairly accused of having an affair with a substantial client, her life is about to crash and burn. She is given an ultimatum to save her career and reputation. Is she up for the challenge?

Cordelia Bannister could be the answer to her prayers. She needs her help regarding Ned (her husband), A Boston real estate tycoon. He was recently acquitted in a fatal drunk driving accident, but his reputation is ruined, as well as the entire family and two children.

Arden dives in to help, but soon, things come to light about what happened that night. Then, another crash sends Ned back into the spotlight. Suddenly, the police are again focused on whether he’s innocent—or guilty.

This case is her final chance to save her name and career, but what if she is helping protect a KILLER? Soon, Arden is knee-deep in a mystery with lies, secrets, and DANGER.

Can you say twisty plot, addictive, heart-pounding suspense, and fantastic characters—but of course, this is the mastermind pro, HPR!

Complex and multi-layered, the characters come to life in this wild ride! ONE WRONG WORD is fast-paced and action-packed, so buckle up and keep up —because there is something at every page turn, and you do not want to miss a thing!

It is told from the POVs of three strong women as the story unfolds with a web of deceit, lies, mistrust, money, power, greed, blackmail, manipulation, and SECRETS. You will be on the edge of your seat until the end.

Masterfully crafted, as always, it's an unputdownable cat-and-mouse game, and you never know who to trust with suspects and red herrings keeping you guessing. Prime for the big or small screen!

Now, the million-dollar question: will there be a sequel? Arden is super and too good to end, so bring her back! Believe all the Buzz...get this gem on your TBR list now! This will be a bestseller for sure!

Stay tuned for my Feb Featured #AuthorElevatorSeries Q&A Interview with Hank on pub day (Feb 6, 2024), where we go behind the book and this award-winning favorite rock star author!

Special thanks to Forge Books and NetGalley for the opportunity to read an advanced digital review copy of this stellar psychological thriller for an honest review.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

Pub Date: Feb 6, 2024

My Rating: 5 Stars +

Check out all my previous #AuthorElevatorSeries

with Hank! Behind the Book & the Author




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