Money is like good health. You can't have too much of it,"" says Kosmas Bourlotas, Greek shipping magnate and sometime godfather of a clutch of tycoons. When Kosmas loses his fortune, his prestige dips heavily until he makes a killing in Japanese-built oil tankers. This dynastic novel beginning in the small Greek town of Chios in 1820, inevitably develops into today's headlines (reminscent of Livanos, Niarchos and Onassis.) Gage's sense of the shipping world raises it somewhat above lurid melodrama--there's a palpable absence of submachine guns. The whole crew's family feelings run deep, especially about sons, and passing on the business, and the eagle spirit of MONEY. The irony is that the last surviving male heir of the Bourlotas wants to become a celibate monk. But when Kosmas comes down with Hodgkin's Disease, his son gives up his cave on Mount Athos to take over the firm and do well with it until his father recovers--and the son suddenly dies of the same (nonhereditary) illness. God's Hand? Perhaps not--but memorable chicanery without a draggy moment.