When TWA Flight 514 went down outside of Washington's Dulles Airport on December 1, 1974, a wave of sorrow rose up that somehow had to be turned into a solace of dollars and cents--out of court, if possible. Ninety-two hideously mutilated people lay scattered by an accident attributable either to a government air-traffic controller at his radar screen or to the pilot who made an error in judgment and flew into a Blue Ridge mountain 40 miles from the field. As it turned out, the government and TWA decided to share the blame and settle fast before a successful court suit resulted in a stampede of fantastic claims against them. Adam Shaw, who thinks this air crash ""ought to matter,"" traced the friends and family of many of those who wound up in zippered body bags; he has put together a compendium of grief and bereavement--and calculation--that shows how this particular tragedy has been dealt with by the living. To be sure, the reader often is ready to eviscerate TWA--or the government--for its many gaffes in handling the families. But when the first test case brings a $90,000 award--not the $10 million the family asked for--well, it seems fair enough. The clink of cash in this trial of tears is absorbing, while the long, diverse portrait gallery of victims is necessary but numbing.