Her Father’s Daughter: Craig Johnson’s Vic Moretti

Jun 14, 2014 | 2014 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Sharon Tucker

by Sharon Tucker

I read The Cold Dish a few years back and thanks to Craig Johnson’s talents as a born storyteller, felt immediately connected to the modern West of his Walt Longmire. Even a reader like me with great appreciation for but little connection to the American West, who has no experience of guns, and who is vastly ignorant of Indian culture and law enforcement techniques finds she is suddenly comfortable and even mildly conversant about all of the former. (Ask me about Sharps rifles sometime.) Longmire’s Absaroka County in Wyoming is so well crafted that readers can just walk into life in the environs of Durant, Wyoming and the Big Horn Mountains bordering the small town. book

Durant is peopled by a cast of challenging and complex personalities, principally: Longmire himself, Longmire’s lifelong friend Henry Standing Bear, former sheriff Lucian Connolly, and Philadelphia transplant and deputy, Victoria Moretti. How Longmire fits, yet doesn’t quite fit into his traditionally masculine world marks him with an attractive level of vulnerability that is in sharp contrast to his other characters. The Bear is an almost mythic figure who embodies mysticism and physical prowess, yet never loses his wry humor about it all. Connolly is the walking embodiment of an earlier mode of law enforcement whose time may have passed but whose abilities are more sharply honed than ever.

The lack of humor and seeming invulnerability of Victoria Moretti works against female stereotype to the extent that I had a hard time liking her when the other characters became immediate favorites. I’m sure I’m not the only reader who was fairly annoyed by Moretti’s appalling language and take-no-prisoners attitude. Look, I’m Southern, of an academic bent, and while profanity can oft-times be justified, Vic has all sorts of hirsute, burly and nautically inclined men blushing as they go about their daily tasks. As for her attitude, well, at least she’s not all mouth and she rarely defers to anyone.

Perhaps the turning point for Moretti’s gaining my somewhat grudging respect was in Johnson’s third Longmire novel, Kindness Goes Unpunished, in which The Bear, Dog and Longmire drive from Wyoming across the U.S. to visit his daughter Cady in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and to meet her fellow attorney and fiancé. Effectively, this leaves Moretti in charge of the county and she is more than up to the responsibility. book

In fact, Longmire has in mind that she should be the next county sheriff after he has accommodated voters to the competence that far outweighs her abrasiveness. In the pages that follow we learn that Moretti comes from a family of police officers and that her father, (for the purposes of this novel) the original Vic Moretti, is known in his family, and especially by her, as Super Cop.

Perhaps the most telling indicator of their family dynamic is that the muscles of Moretti’s jaw clench whenever her father is mentioned. Vic, the father has all the personal style and drama of an opera singer, just what he happens to be in his spare time. When in the course of the novel, readers finally meet the head of the Moretti familia, he lives up to his daughter’s hype: egotistical, unforgiving, and commanding, but with a certain charm that many powerful men possess.

It’s notable too that Vic the daughter (AKA Vic the holy terror) grew up with only brothers and that her mother is a bit in the shadows for reasons best read in the novel. How all this plays out in the personality of Longmire’s Vic is a bit predictable without being trite. She is professionally and personally secure and intensely loyal to the few people she respects. I like it that she lacks archetypical daddy issues, but instead has family issues–so much more complex. I also like that she is ostensibly tougher than Longmire who is a pianist, quite literary, and possesses a wry sense of humor that makes me laugh aloud often. The contrast makes for excellent reading.

Of course I have already read Johnson’s Any Other Name that came out last month, but I didn’t count on getting caught up into binge reading the first part of the series again, which I did. For the sake of reading library books I already had checked out, I drew the line at starting The Dark Horse when I still had a TBR pile of epic proportions. However, reading the first three novels again made me realize even more that what drew me in to Johnson’s West also made me appreciate Vic Moretti and I am the richer for it.

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Sharon Tucker is former faculty at the University of Memphis in Memphis TN, and now enjoys evening supervising in that campus library. Having forsworn TV except for online viewing and her own movies, she reads an average of 3 to 4 books per week and has her first novel—a mystery, of course—well underway.


  1. The people of Absaroka County, WY, are as real as the folks here in Simpson County, MS, thanks to Craig Johnson’s excellence as a master wordsmith. The Longmire series is one of the very few which I buy on first day of publication in hardcover. I enjoyed this piece very much.

    • It was fun to write too, Larry.
      I’m the same way about Johnson—I pre-order as soon as I learn about a new book of his and have yet to be disappointed.

  2. First Durant is in Wyoming not Montana! Basic fact you got wrong! I guess your southern sensibilities have truly taken hold and clouded your judgment. You just don’t get Vic at all. She is actually one of the funniest characters in the books and I enjoy the books that have her in them a lot the most. Any Other Name his newest was so good because of Vic and her sarcastic wit and interaction with Walt.

    • Thanks so much for catching that typo of Montana, Sharon mentions Wyoming just before that so I’m assuming she knew that but typed the wrong thing–it happens. As to the rest as I’m just now starting the series so I’ll have to leave that discussion between you and Sharon. Thanks for stopping by!
      Lorie Ham, KRL Publisher

      • In case your interested. Craig Johnson posted a link to this article on his Facebook page. You might want to read the reactions from other people that have read the books. They seem to disagree with this assessment of Vic as I did.

    • Apologies for the typo to all.
      I do get her, Sierra, and I like her. She just took some getting used to for me. She is very witty, sarcastic, and a great character. She also balances Walt and Henry beautifully.

  3. Actually, I had a harder time liking Cady.

    • I can see that. I’ve always thought that maybe Cady took after her mother a good bit—not laid back like Walt. She does come through as a good, fully developed character, though.
      I love that Walt calls her “Punk.”

    • Funny you should say that, jd. Cady is less present in the books than on the TV show and on the show I’ve reserved judgment on her character. She is presenting on the show so far as a bit of a selfish brat only concerned with her own feelings and not very supportive of Walt or his feelings.

  4. Look, I like Vic Moretti; but the language is, sometimes, a bit over the top. A former Philadelphia cop, sure, I can understand, and even accept it — heck, I do. She just took a little getting used to.

  5. I saw the first show, read the book that went with it and was a tad disappointed because there wasn’t much difference which is good but that can make for bad reading! It just encouraged me that watching the show, you didn’t need to read the books. Thanks!

    • Lynn only a couple of the episodes over the 3+ seasons are actually based on stories from the books. The last episode of season 1 is loosely based on The Cold Dish and the 1st episode of season 2 is loosely based on Hell is Empty. There are a lot of differences between the show and the books. It’s worth reading the books IMO.


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