Sara Woods was born Lana Hutton in Yorkshire, in the north of England, and educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart School in Filey. During World War II, she worked in a bank and as a London solicitor's clerk, picking up background knowledge of the legal profession that would prove useful to her later literary career. In 1946, she married Anthony George Bowen-Judd and ran a pig farm with him until 1954. The couple emigrated to Nova Scotia, Canada, in 1957. Lana worked as registrar for St. Mary's University. In 1961, she published her first novel, Bloody Instructions, which introduced the character of Anthony Maitland, a British barrister who was to become the hero of 49 of her books. Besides Sara Woods, she wrote under the pseudonyms Anne Burton (three books featuring banker Richard Trenton), Mary Challis (four books featuring solicitor Jeremy Locke) and Margaret Leek (four books featuring attorney Anne Marryat), but her mystery/courtoom dramas with Anthony Maitland were her main focus.
She was a member of the Society of Authors in England, the Authors League of America, the Mystery Writers of America, and the English Crime Writers' Association. She was also instrumental in forming Crime Writers of Canada, serving on its first executive committee.