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  • I throughly enjoyed reading this book

    DEVOLUTION is that rare combustible blend that results when an author’s knowledge of human nature, poetic sensibilities and worldly experience combine to tell a compelling and explosive story. In this case, actual bombs are set to go off and the protagonist is tasked with saving thousands of live. To survive physically and emotionally while completing his mission, newly-recruited spy Michael Dolan must first form crucial, inter-dependent relationships that are based on trust that is not always earned. To compound things, Dolan’s worst enemy may be his obsession with keeping his mind detached, his emotions boxed in, and his heart protected from his painful past. Dolan’s strengths, which are tested to the limit, are his immense resourcefulness and his unwillingness to blindly obey orders. And then—surprisingly enough—there is his growing capacity to love. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. John Casey’s unrelenting realism and technical expertise take the reader behind the scenes in a way that few spy thrillers do. At times Michael Dolan reminded me of George Smiley in John le Carré’s “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.” This book is the first in a trilogy and I look forward to seeing more of Dolan as he continues to struggle with himself and those he works with to “do good things.

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  • Couldn't Turn The Pages Fast Enough

    Cloak and Dagger stories are usually not my favorite, but it pays to take a chance now and then and Devolution paid off. Author John Casey makes us anxious from the onset when SCALPEL’s Deputy Director of Operations, Phil Dittrich, the CIA’s top spy, pulls the plug at the last minute on a clandestine operation that goes awry. SCALPEL is tied to the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, in charge of beyond-black operations, and after barely pulling off its last near-disaster of an operation, it finds itself in hot water again. Dittrich’s second in command, Lauren Rhodes, follows orders and aborts the mission, but with apprehension, wondering what is in store for SCALPEL as well as her own prospects. Meanwhile, the bad guys have no doubt about their mission and they’re full speed ahead on a deadly plan, built around revenge and religious fanaticism, to kill as many Americans in Europe as they can. Using the all-seeing omniscient POV, Casey gives us a 360-degree view of counterintelligence operations, introducing us to the SCALPEL team. Along with Dittrich and Rhodes there’s the tech-wizardry skills of Thomas Freeman, the spy-savvy operative Tony Stone and the wild-card, Michael Dolan. Dolan is a late arrival, and he seems to be a surprise solution to SCALPEL’s latest problem, but as the saying goes, if it’s too good to be true it probably isn’t. Casey masterfully paints a complex character who is seemingly rock solid, but has defects that even Dolan himself is not completely aware of. These defects come out of his orderly emotional closet when SCALPEL’s mission hits the fan. Casey’s frank and realistic interplay among the principals draws you into a complicated plot about believable challenges, both in the field and inside the walls of counterintelligence operations. His craftsmanship is evident as the plot progresses until the tension becomes too fervent to put aside. The pages didn’t turn fast enough.

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  • Giving Voice to Our Darkest Thoughts

    I have been expanding my reading horizons from the literary fiction that I customarily read, which is how I came to read John Casey’s spy thriller DEVOLUTION. Prior to writing this review, I thought I should read up on the conventions of the spy thriller genre. I’m glad that I did because it provided the context I needed to fully appreciate the novel. One of the prominent features of Devolution is the inner workings of the espionage game--and I use the word “game” purposely. The stakes are very high--taking out a terrorist cell bent on jihad--yet the egos of the various players can’t help but emerge to impose their own will--not to mention the internecine drama happening in the larger intelligence community. The technology of spying plays a role in the novel as well, with most of it focused on the protagonist’s iPhone. I found these details both interesting and believable, albeit a little scary when the thought of how this technology might be used to spy on the rest of us entered my mind. Casey uses setting very effectively, with the novel opening in a small, dimly lit office of the CIA, deep in the bowels of Langley. When we think of “spooks,” that’s where they are, huddled in a dingy, soundproof room looking at “the spectral glow of the monitors” and talking in acronyms. This particular unit has failed at their current mission in Europe to take out a terrorist cell and is danger of being closed down. The head of the unit is not about to give up, and she recruits Michael Dolan, a former special operations pilot with a connection to one of the suspected terrorists, Shariff Lefebvre, to leave his staff job at the Pentagon and go to Paris. Once in Paris, Dolan is to reestablish his friendship with Shariff and report back to his handler at Langley, all the while fighting his own demons from his previous time in Paris and being surveilled himself. At key points in the novel, there are shifts in point of view to the terrorists, which serves to intensify the horror of what they have planned and drive the action forward. The plot then takes several unexpected, character-driven turns, which I won’t reveal here. I would highly recommend DEVOLUTION to readers who enjoy a good spy yarn with a flawed protagonist and intriguing secondary characters. They won’t be disappointed!

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