“The Benjamin James novel, “Swimming in Oil”, has been rated the best drug-smuggling thriller of recent years” Bogota Free Planet, May 2013.

Short description

Swimming in Oil is a crime thriller set amidst a world of drugs and arms smuggling in Venezuela and Colombia. The novel provides a reality-check from the centres of power, corruption and intrigue sprouting from the conspiratorial world of Venezuelan socialism under the last days of Hugo Chávez. Are the politicians the good guys or the bad guys – sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.

Extended description


The structure of the book intertwines two narratives. The first, which takes up over four fifths of the manuscript, is a fictional story concerning drugs and arms smuggling from Venezuela and Colombia to Europe and the efforts of British agents and others to bring down the criminals involved in this trade.

The core of the story relates the actions of a character whose background is as a tax lawyer specialising in moving money around networks of offshore accounts. He sets himself up as a provider of a complete service for traffickers from taking goods on board in a variety of clandestine ways through to delivery in to Europe by a means never tried before. To back up the transport services, he offers a covert means of transferring large sums of money from Europe to offshore jurisdictions.

The second narrative is an account of the last days of Hugo Chávez, erstwhile President of Venezuela, and the first days of his successor’s Presidency. It serves as the background to the first and provides some insights on the way an ideologue shaped life in Venezuela over a fourteen-year period. The main theme is the interplay between corruption and power in both a fictional and a real situation.

The plot begins with a traffic accident which later proves to be a double killing authorised by senior members of the administration and ends with another double killing just as the noose is tightening around their necks.

Those investigating the crimes work in the British Embassy in Caracas. Their chief is responsible for intelligence on drug trafficking in Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador. Working through a variety of international agencies, he traces the perpetrators of some of the most daring and innovative drug trafficking crimes he has ever seen. Major hauls are intercepted, guns are seized and as the pattern of money movements is finally revealing its secret, the second double murder takes place.


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