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Book Excerpt: ‘Evolution’ by John Casey

  • John Casey of Marlow will release the second book, in his Devolution Trilogy, ‘Evolution’ in May of 2021. Courtesy photo

  • John Casey Courtesy photo

  • 'Evolution' by John Casey. Courtesy photo—

Published: 3/31/2021 5:14:19 PM
EVOLUTIONThe Devolution Trilogy, Book Two

To be released by PHiR Publishing in May of 2021, Evolution is book two in The Devolution Trilogy, a psychological spy thriller series written by John Casey. The series kicked off in October 2019 with the release of Devolution, which was nominated for the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award. Casey, who is from Marlow, N.H., is currently writing book three, Revelation, to be released in 2022.

In Devolution, we are introduced to the main protagonist, Michael Dolan, a stoic perfectionist and former special operations pilot working a staff job at the Pentagon. He is approached there by the CIA with an improbable request – to help them prevent impending terrorist attacks in Europe. The Agency was at a dead end and running out of time – they were in desperate need of an agent who they could quickly embed within a terrorist organization in Europe without raising suspicion. After being vetted and receiving a bare minimum of training, Dolan found himself back in Paris, France where he’d experienced a terrible tragedy years before as a graduate student at The Sorbonne University. As his deep-cover role in Operation EXCISE evolves, Dolan begins to find that of all the demons he must prevail against, the most terrible are from within ... Devolution builds and winds its way through jaw-dropping plot twists and psychoanalytically charged, heart-stopping action until the final chapter when Dolan concludes his mission in dramatic fashion.

But there are unanswered questions and business left unfinished, and the story picks up two years later in Evolution. After the climactic end of Operation EXCISE, Dolan cut ties with the CIA and returned to his hometown of Boston. He has finished his graduate degree and is now an assistant professor at Boston University. He had just obtained closure with all that happened in Paris and Berlin when the Agency comes knocking once more. Terrorists have launched a bioweapon in the Middle East, thousands are dying of a horrifying virus with no cure, and Dolan is being targeted for assassination by the same terrorist group he helped shut down in Devolution. From there, Dolan does his best to maneuver back and forth on a line separating the need to follow orders and taking calculated but dangerous risks that could ensure the success of his mission and save many, many lives while bringing the terrorists to justice.

It is notable that the title of each book is not necessarily indicative of what happens with the plot but instead, of the general state of mind of the main character. Michael Dolan finds himself caught in a mental downward spiral in the first book, but this is reversed in Evolution. The third book, Revelation, finds Dolan at the top of his game, which is imperative as he and his black ops CIA team will be challenged as they had never been before.

Casey explains that when he began writing The Devolution Trilogy he wanted to create a story where the depth and complexity of the main character were just as compelling and important as the plot. As spy thrillers go, this series has everything readers of the genre crave: action, suspense, cliffhangers and mystery. What makes the story so unique (and that much more captivating) is the dark and labyrinthine nature of Dolan’s psychological struggle as he navigates the challenges of his top-secret mission while confronting the demons of his past. This seems to work well – he has received many unsolicited comments from readers of Devolution that “this book would make a great movie.” Similarly, fans of Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity will appreciate the internecine struggle and cryptic complexity of the protagonist, Michael Dolan, as will fans of Tom Clancy’s Patriot Games who savor a page-turner about an unlikely spy thrust into adversity, only to emerge the strongest and most capable of them all.

The Central Intelligence Agency Public Affairs Office is actively collaborating with John Casey on the Trilogy. The goal of this is to validate and improve the realism and veracity of the clandestine elements of the series. The CIA does this on a limited basis with Hollywood filmmakers and select authors. Though not an endorsement, it is a key indicator for the quality and potential reach the series, and of its capacity to make a literary impact on the general public.

Devolution (Evolution and Revelation to follow) is available in hardcover, paperback, and all digital formats (Kindle, Nook, eBook, Kobo) wherever books are sold. Devolution is also available on audiobook via Amazon Audible and Apple iTunes, brilliantly narrated by Tom Campbell ( Tom has agreed to narrate the entire series.

Prepublication review of ‘Evolution (abridged)’

“John Casey has accomplished the nearly impossible – to follow up his singular, thrilling, and insightful debut novel with an even more impressive sequel. Michael Dolan is one of the deepest characters I’ve seen in this type of fiction. As someone who knows more than a little bit about the clandestine world, I found Evolution to be a crisp, hard-hitting and realistic yarn that will leave you wanting more.”

– U.S. Ambassador Luis Moreno spent a major portion of his Foreign Service career assisting in the pursuit of Pablo Escobar and leading implementation of Plan Colombia.

For more information on John Casey’s writing, his television appearances and other media events, please visit


The following passages come from Chapter 13. It is a good example of how The Devolution Trilogy is different than other spy thrillers – the character development is deep and the psyche of the main character, Michael Dolan, is complex and intriguing. In this scene, Dolan is thinking about how things might play out if he were able to confront his one-time friend Sharif, now a hunted terrorist. As he lay in bed he falls asleep, his calculated thoughts somehow transforming into a troubling dream.

Knowing this made him feel better, that the dangerous role he was playing was in fact very important to the overall success of Operation CLEARCUT. Take down the AMA. Prevent future attacks and loss of life. Capture, or kill Sharif. He told Welker that if they were able to abduct him, he wanted to be part of the interrogation. Welker did not like the idea at all, for obvious reasons. But Dolan persisted, explaining logically and resolutely how their connection went deep, that Claire’s murder was perhaps the one event in their shared history that only Dolan could leverage to break Sharif. And though he admitted it still affected him deeply, he knew better than almost anyone how to suppress those feelings while doing it. Welker capitulated, though he cautioned that Dolan would only be allowed to participate in a limited way – Welker would run the show.

One aspect of the op that didn’t sit well with him was that he would have no opportunity to participate in the actual capture of Sharif. He wondered, given the opportunity to be part of it, if he would be compelled to kill him. Some part of him felt it was the right thing; his death would equate to justice in its truest form. An eye for an eye. The more he thought about it though, the more he decided it was less than that. Sharif killed Claire, and he killed Tony. In the Amman attack, he murdered many, many more. It wouldn’t be justice at all, not even close. He needed to figure it out. As he laid there and almost without intention, Dolan envisioned the scenario, embedding himself with DEVGRU. Scott, the Seal Team lead was by his side. They both carried HK MP7 sub machine guns at the ready. Backs pressed against an outbuilding, waiting for a signal to storm the compound. Dolan peered carefully around the edge of the wall. It was dead silent and nearly pitch black – the resolution of the facility was grainy, even with their latest-generation night vision goggles.

“GO GO GO!” came the signal in his earpiece. Dolan turned the corner, quickly and deftly making his way across the dark courtyard followed at intervals by Scott and the rest of the team. With their backs now to the front of the hideout, Scott reached out and tested the doorknob. Unlocked. One by one they filed in and began casing the immediate area. There was commotion down the hall, and Scott warned the team. Dolan shut his eyes to avoid being blinded by NVG flareup and jumped as the flashbang grenade went off. He opened his eyes and followed Scott down the hallway where a dazed terrorist on his knees begged for mercy with his hands in the air. One of the team quickly zip tied his arms and legs together, gagged him and dragged him to a corner. They spread out across the first floor, announcing each room clear as Scott and Dolan made their way to the basement.

Scott held the door open for him and they moved silently across a large, strangely empty room. Dolan couldn’t even see the walls, it was so large. A big, dark, empty space. He spotted a figure maybe twenty meters away, ahead and to the right. Terse updates from the team interrupted by reports from MK7s filled his ears as he moved silently toward the silhouette. Dolan glanced back but Scott was gone now; he was alone. He kept moving until the person began to come into view, his back to Dolan and head hung forward in defeat. Sharif. Standing in a corner, of all places. Unable to face him.

An uncontrollable rage mounted from within as Dolan struggled with what to do. Scott had gone back upstairs, no one was watching. He could tell the team Sharif attacked him or struggled. That he had no choice but to kill him. Before he could think about it more he raised the barrel of his HK and squeezed off three rounds, two to the back and after Sharif fell to the floor, one in the head. Where he had stood, a grisly Rorschach pattern of spattered blood graced the walls. The shooting upstairs had stopped, his earpiece was silent. Dolan’s hands were shaking. He set his weapon on the floor and flipped up his NVGs. Fumbling for the flashlight on his utility vest, he finally turned it on and shined it on Sharif’s crumpled form, face down on the floor. But something wasn’t right. A great sense of dread consumed him as he reached down, grabbed his shoulder and turned him over. It wasn’t Sharif. It was Claire.


John Casey is a novelist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet from New Hampshire. He is the author of Devolution, book one of The Devolution Trilogy. Evolution, book two, was released in 2021 and Revelation, the capstone of the psychological spy thriller series, will be published in 2022.

Casey is the author of Raw Thoughts as well, a compelling and mindful fusion of poetic and photographic art (nominated for the National Book Award and Griffin Poetry Prize). Casey will release Meridian: A Raw Thoughts Book later this summer. His poetry has been featured internationally in numerous literary journals and magazines. A Veteran combat and test pilot with a Master of Arts from Florida State University, Casey also served as a Diplomat and International Affairs Strategist at U.S. embassies in Germany and Ethiopia, the Pentagon, and elsewhere. He is passionate about fitness, nature, and the human spirit and is inspired by the incredible spectrum of people, places and cultures he has experienced in life.

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