John Jasper, choirmaster of Cloisterham Cathedral and uncle to Edwin Drood, is a respected, yet troubled man. “A jaded traveller” with “a gloomy smile”, he has been harbouring an opium habit for an unknown length of time, and while his visits to a remote opium den in London remain a secret to the residents of Cloisterham, they have nonetheless began to notice that he looks “a little worn”, while more recently the two worlds of Jasper have begun to collide as the opium den’s owner, Princess Puffer, has been seen in Cloisterham talking to the residents. The only person to whom Jasper himself had confessed his opium habit to was his beloved nephew and ward Edwin Drood, even admitting to feeling trapped in his current life, arguing that “even a poor monotonous chorister and grinder of music may be troubled with some stray sort of ambition, aspiration, restlessness, dissatisfaction”.
Jasper has always been observed to be a caring guardian to his orphaned nephew Edwin; if anything “Mr Jasper’s heart may be too much set upon his nephew”, and it has been observed that Jasper maintained “a look of hungry, exacting, watchful, and yet devoted affection” upon young Edwin at all times. It is perhaps this deep care of Edwin which led to Jasper being particularly wary of Neville Landless after the newcomer to Cloisterham had an impassioned argument with Edwin. While reconciliation was sought, the disappearance of Edwin immediately afterwards has led Jasper to openly accuse Neville of the crime.
Yet Jasper himself is not above suspicion; it has been noted of this “slinking individual” that he has strong feelings for Edwin’s fiancé Rosa Bud, even prompting the young lady to flee the city to avoid his advances and ponder whether Jasper himself may be the perpetrator behind Drood’s disappearance. Prior to the crime, Jasper accompanied Durdles on a nightwalk around the Cathedral crypts, during which time Durdles fell asleep unexpectedly having drunk wine supplied by Jasper, experiencing strange dreams in which Jasper took his keys…a similar experience of surprisingly strong wine supplied by Jasper occurred shortly before Neville and Edwin had their altercation in Jasper’s home. Yet whatever suspicions the minority may have of him, to the majority of Cloisterham he remains the resolute champion of his vanished nephew, not least in the eyes of his influential friend, Mayor Sapsea.