I heard back from a beta reader today. His advice was invaluable, primarily targeting minor logic problems, issues of geography (He's from the area I was writing about), typos and a repeated word. I thought I'd hacked and slashed all those, but I apparently missed "sigh". I found myself extremely grateful for the time he spent with it, taking notes as he went and then typing them all up and sending them with page numbers included. As much as anything, having this person who I've never met and don't know very well at all, read it all the way to the end and still like it was a real shot in the arm. (Friends and husbands are always a suspect source of feedback). He also felt I'd dealt well with the foreshadowing in the rewrite, which I'd been really worried about. I tied up all the loose ends and the ending was satifying. Hurray for me. Hurray for the reader.
The only major weakness he spotted and a source of debate with myself is whether I should have let a bad guy kill the MC's dog or not. He thinks I shouldn't, pointing out that it was a) almost predictable and b) unforgivable in some readers' eyes. He had a point about both and it will require only a minor rewrite of the scene if I decide to save him. I'm still considering this and if anyone who happens by my blog has an opinion, I'd love to hear it.
I'm entering the third and final (?) draft stage of this manuscript. I'll apply his notes, run a hard copy and then go over it looking for typos, etc. I am on schedule to be done with this phase by the end of April. This is the first time I've come this far in a rewrite and felt secure with what I'm doing.