American numbers:

A violent crime is committed in the United States every 24 seconds;

A person is robbed every 58 seconds;

A woman is raped every 6 minutes;

Someone is murdered every 23 minutes.

Late on the afternoon of April 22, 1974, three Air Force enlisted men broke into a stereo shop in Ogden, Utah. While one of the airmen loaded appliances from the store into a van, the other two took the employes -- manager Stan Walker, 20, and saleswoman Michelle Ansley, 18 -- into the basement and tied them up.

Cortney Naisbitt, 16, walked into the store. He, too, was taken to the basement and bound.

Later, Orren Walker, checking on why his son hadn't come home from work, was taken prisoner. Later still, Carol Naisbitt, looking for her son, walked in and was taken.

In the course of the robbery, Ansley was stripped and raped. She and the other four prisoners were forced to drink a liquid drain cleaner, then shot in the head. Orren Walker also was choked with a cord, then had a ballpoint pen kicked through his ear and into his throat.

At about 10:30 that night, police were called to investigate "unknown trouble" at the shop. They found the two young employes, Stan Walker and Michelle Ansley, dead. Orren Walker and Carol and Cortney Naisbitt were taken to area hospitals.

Carol Naisbitt died that night. Orren Walker recovered. The doctors thought Cortney Naisbitt's case hopeless, that he was sure to die.

They were wrong. He was in a coma for four weeks, in the hospital for seven months, but he survived.

Gary Kinder's "Victim: The Other Side of Murder" is Cortney Naisbitt's story. It is the story of how his father, obstetrician Dr. Byron Naisbitt, his two brothers and sister, rallied around Cortney, how they, along with heroic efforts by physicians and staff at two Ogden hospitals, helped pull him through his crisis.

"Victim" is, in many ways, a mirror of Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" in its intensity and the feeling of "being there" -- in the basement during the murders, in the hospital, in the morgue. But there is an important difference. In Kinder's book that focus is on the victims, not the murderers.

In "Victim" it is not the prose that rivets our attention: It is the story itself, and it is to Kinder's credit that he puts the story first. His writing style is clear and straightforward, and he pulls his readers into the story with a crisp, stark narrative and the actual words of the members of the Naisbitt family.

Dr. Byron Naisbitt, heading home from the hospital morgue: "No one was going to greet me and no one was going to be there . . . I went into the house and everything from one standpoint or another reminded me . . . Her house, her closet full of clothes, everything in the house was just her . . . It's just empty. And your life is empty with it."

The Naisbitts, before the crime, were Every Family. They were all of us, the way we might like to be, a Norman Rockwell family. Author Kinder does nothing to deny the reader this connection, but the reader is the one who makes it: What happened to the Naisbitts could happen to any of us.

We are horrified at the crime, infuriated with the perpetrators and moved by numerous incidents during Cortney's recovery.

For several months he was unaware that his mother had died, or even that she had been injured, having blocked the entire event from his memory, his own part in it included.

On one of his first trips out of the hospital, Cortney asked:

" 'Where's Mom? How come she never comes to see me?'

" 'Cortney, your mother was in the same accident as you, and she's not as well off as you are.'

" 'Well, if she can't come and see me, can I go and see her?'

" 'You really don't remember, do you, son?' "

"Cortney shook his head, looking at his father and waiting.

" 'Your mother's dead, Cortney.'

"For a moment Cortney just stared at his father. 'Oh, no,' he said finally. 'No she isn't.'

" 'She really is,' said his father, 'and we have to face the fact that she's gone.'

" 'No she isn't,' he cried. 'She isn't gone.' "

Toward the end of Cortney's hospitalization, the three airmen were arrested, charged and tried. Two were convicted of murder and aggravated robbery. The third was convicted on two counts of robbery.

On the day the two killers were sentenced to die, Cortney was released from the hospital. He returned to high school and, on May 27, 1976, he graduated.

Kinder's epilogue tells what has happened to the Naisbitt family and the killers. Cortney works at Hill Air Force Base as a computer programmer. His father has remarried.

The convicted killers are in Utah State Prison. According to Kinder, who is a lawyer, there is a 50-50 chance their sentences will be commuted to life imprisonment, making them eligible for parole.