Author: Lori Lacefield
What do you do when you are nominated to a very prestigious charitable foundation and you soon discover that the directors are quite creative and innovative when raising funds, although their methods are not exactly within the boundaries of the law and nothing is quite what it seems?
In The Seventh Survivor, Lori Lacefield constructs a kind of socially oriented crime mystery. The Diamond Foundation comprises ten women directors who were chosen to become part of the group as a result of their being a victims of a vicious crime at sometime in their life. Among the group are those who are survivors of rape, abuse, assault, kidnapping, and attempted murder. Moreover, the link that ties them together is that their perpetrators for the most part have escaped punishment due to the injustices or inefficiencies of the legal system. The modus operandi of The Diamond Foundation is, as pointed out by the chairman of the foundation, Marjoram Swail, “to set the record straight.”
The directors seek out individuals who have cheated, lied, and stolen from innocent people, and due to the shortcomings of the legal system are not prosecuted. The foundation’s solution is to identify and investigate these individuals, who the directors decide by a vote of two-thirds, have either violated the law or have committed some kind of immoral behavior, such as a religious minister committing adultery with a prostitute. If they gather sufficient evidence to prove the illegal or hypocritical actions of these individuals, they anonymously send him or her a note outlining the evidence that they have in their possession. The kicker of all of this is that they blackmail the perpetrator and request a sum of money to be donated to the foundation in order to keep the information from becoming public or falling into the wrong hands.
From these funds there is a distribution among designated agencies or crime victims after a ten percent fee is deducted and divided equally among the directors and a further ten percent fee deducted for administrative and investigative expenses. Unfortunately, sometimes the donors are reluctant to go along with the blackmail or perhaps don’t have the money to donate. What happens to these poor souls?
When Palmer Reed, our protagonist, is nominated to the board of directors of The Diamond Foundation, to say she was elated is an understatement. Reed was also thankful for having Marjoram Swail nominate her, as it was Swail who came to her rescue when she was the victim of a kidnapping during her childhood. The kidnapping had been tied into the activities of her father’s union activities with a company that was involved in the illegal disposal of toxic waste and the murder of some employees. All of which, as we will later discover, are cleverly interwoven into the blackmail activities of the foundation. However, when Reed discovers the true nature of the workings of the organization her elation turns to one of fright and dismay, for she is quite aware of the consequences. Moreover, when murder becomes part of the possible retributions meted out, she faces quite a dilemma.
Lacefield delivers all of the elements of a gripping crime novel with its clearly defined characters, high-stakes conflict, and the struggles of a vividly drawn protagonist. Quite prevalent throughout is the constant emotional charge that emanates from the struggle of the protagonist, Palmer Reed, squaring off against the powerful antagonist, Marjoram Swail. In addition, the heightened drama when Reed is pushed to her limits, as she grapples against competing values, conflicting visions and evil, all make for a riveting read that engages the reader on every level, particularly emotionally and intellectually.