The Dark Ladies of Fiction
Anita Brookner's novels are populated with people who would be considered the extras on a film set. Through internal dialogue we find out what frustrates, motivates, and usually stymies them. The action is very subtle but like a car wreck at ten miles an hour, can still cause damage.
Patricia Highsmith has a phenomenally dim view of humanity and her novels are excursions into the minds of people you can only hope are not sitting beside you. Starting with her first book Strangers on a Train, Highsmith plumbs the depths of human greed, selfishness, and shameless manipulation.
Joyce Carol Oates
Joyce Carol Oates reveals the toxic and insidious motivations and emotions that rumble under the surface of the most civilized of lives. Her characters are usually virulently flawed and hard to care about, but impossible to look away from. Oates is the queen of schadenfreude.
Take Jane Austen; add a soupcon of murder and you have Anne Perry. Perry's books are filled with detail about the fashion, social structure, and horrors of the Victorian Age to which she throws in a gruesome murder or two. She has the husband hunting and social machinations that we love in Austen's work, which here usually provides a foil to her detectives' attempts at crime solving. Dark psychology abounds.
Anita Shreve's novels are incredibly atmospheric and usually have a women's issue at their core like adultery, incest, or domestic violence. Her characters are easy to connect to and her novels make excellent choices for book discussions.