Books - Fiction: The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares by Joyce Carol Oates, Published by Head of Zeus, £16.99

The prolific Joyce Carol Oates returns with her 23rd collection of short stories, a morbid series of stories focusing on themes of familial injustice and loneliness.

The titular tale is the collection’s real triumph, effectively meshing a creepy plotline with jarring, stream-of-consciousness language.

This story follows a group of suburban teenage girls who prepare to sacrifice a blond innocent.

Told from the very different perspectives of the child, her mother, the plotting teenagers and the wrongfully accused man, it plays to the most common fears of adults and children alike.

Other stories worth a mention include A Hole In The Head, a slow-burning surgical nightmare, and the haunting Nobody Knows My Name, where a child coming to terms with the a new sibling.

Oates explores some dark material in this collection, and isn’t afraid to throw in the occasional shocking twist. Whether that is a good thing or not very much depends on your capacity for misery lit.