Not content with its dominion over the present (Cat Crimes for the Holidays, 1997, etc.), the master race now extends its reach back through history from ancient Egypt to the mid-20th century. The 21 original contributions are alternately gloomy (Tom Piccirilli’s Poe pastiche), sprightly (Bill Crider’s Hollywood idyll), charming (Gary A. Braunbeck’s tale of a widowed mail-order bride), giddy (Elizabeth Foxwell’s fantasia on Oscar Wilde themes), and historically doughty (Doug Allyn’s medieval balladeer turned detective, Barbara Collins’s investigation into the murder of Carry Nation’s cat, Jon L. Breen’s reminiscence of the silent-film era). Since they lack any considerable mystery, suspense, or ingenuity on the part of the human characters, they’re best read as a triumphal procession of felines through the ages rather than as a series of crime stories that happen to feature cats. The one exception is Carole Nelson Douglas’s evocation of a late Pharaoh’s mummified cat that won’t stay dead—a story that packs two teasing mysteries and some heads-up detection into the space of a sarcophagus. Now that cats have turned up everywhere from the Scottish Highlands to yesterday’s war-torn Beirut, expect next year’s dispatch to come from the moons of Jupiter.