Lana Hutton Bowen-Judd (1922–1985) was born in Yorkshire, England and worked in a bank and as a solicitor's clerk in London during World War II, where she got first-hand experience she put to good use in her mystery novels. Although she wrote under the pseudonyms Ann Burton (three books featuring banker Richard Trenton), Mary Challis (four books featuring solicitor Jeremy Locke) and Margaret Leek (four books featuring attorney Anne Marryat), it was her series with Barrister Anthony Maitland, 48 titles in all, that was her main focus.
The Maitland series debuted with Bloody Instructions in 1961 and continued through the last installment, Naked Villainy, published in 1987 after Woods's death. The publisher included a brief "biography" Woods had created for Barrister Maitland, which was found among the author's papers, as a postscript to the book and the series. In it, Woods says she first met Anthony Maitland when she was 15 years old, when he walked into chapter three of the book she was writing, took over the story and stuck around for more.
The bio refers to Maitland's background—the death of his mother in giving birth to him, his journalist father who died during the War, going to live with his uncle, Maitland's own war experiences, marrying his wife Jenny, and going into law practice. It also describes his physical appearance as tall, a dark man with untidy hair and a thin intelligent face. He was injured in the war and took shrapnel in his shoulder, giving him a permanent disability and some pain. He has a "wickedly accurate gift of mimicry," a facility for foreign languages, and a stammer that only appears when he is angry. But Maitland also has a sense of humor and stubbornness and regards his profession with a touch of cynicism.
In Naked Villainy, Antony Maitland's final outing finds him defending the young Frenchman, Emile Letendre, who is accused of murdering his father, Georges. It appears to many to be an open-and-shut case, with motive, fingerprint evidence, and a half-dozen witnesses consisting of friends dining at the home of Georges' sister and brother-in-law, Francoise and Alan Johnson the night of the murder. But Maitland takes on the case, believing his client's claim that a witches' coven and a Black Mass were behind Georges' death. Unfortunately, the witnesses are all influential people who try to undermine Maitland's case by spreading rumors that the attorney has been coaching witnesses, a charge that could ruin his reputation and career.
Although Maitland's wife Jenny and other secondary characters who often appeared in the series (like Uncle Nicholas, Aunt Vera, and Maitland's friends Meg and Roger), are all present, their roles are secondary to the actual courtroom theatrics. This led Publishers Weekly to say of the book, Woods "is at her best here in the cut and thrust of courtroom drama," and Kirkus Reviews to call it "one of her best...(Maitland) ends his career with a case focused on the courtroom—where he always shone brightest."