Neville is “an unusually handsome lithe young fellow...very dark and rich in colour”. Born and bred in Ceylon with his sister Helena, there is said to be “something untamed” about the pair, and certainly their current guardian Mr Honeythunder has a clear sense of their “defective education” which he seeks to correct by sending them under the care of Reverend Crisparkle and Miss Twinkleton. He confesses to Reverend Crisparkle that he and his sister have had a difficult upbringing under a brutal stepfather, which may explain Neville’s murderous thoughts, though he appears to find peace in the quiet stillness of Cloisterham.
Sadly, this tranquillity is not permanent following public quarrels with Edwin Drood, prompted by Neville’s love for Rosa Bud; furthermore Neville was apparently the last person to see Drood before his strange disappearance on Christmas Eve. Consequently Neville has found himself under the suspicion of Edwin’s uncle John Jasper and most of Cloisterham, and was apprehended the following day by Joe and others, where his stout walking stick was considered a possible murder weapon. While nothing has yet been proven against young Landless, the overwhelming weight of public opinion against him has forced him to flee Cloisterham “with a blight upon his name and fame”, resulting in his exile from the town to the sanctuary of lodgings near to Mr Grewgious, where he still receives visits and tuition from Crisparkle, in addition to making the acquaintance of his neighbour, Tartar.