Read in English in Canada in the late 1980s and probably published around then, I believe this was a paperback YA or children's novel. Don't recall many details confidently but I think it was set in the present day (as was) and the protagonist was a teenage girl who ended up in contact with the ghost of a girl who'd died in a fire (which may also have killed her family), and that it was later revealed that the ghost girl was the one who started the fire, is evil and is trying to get the protagonist killed. The cover may have depicted the ghost girl looking out of the window of a burning building.

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Possibly Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn. It was published in 1987 so it fits the time you remember reading it and the story is broadly the same as your description. However none of the covers match your description.

The central character is Heather whose mother died in a fire. Her father remarried and Heather is shunned by her step-siblings. She befriends a girl called Helen who turns out to be the ghost of a girl who died by drowning in a pond while fleeing from a fire that killed her parents.

In book Helen is believed to lure children to their deaths by drowning in the pond, and indeed she lures Heather to the pond and Heather nearly dies but is rescued in the nick of time.

It turns out that Helen started the fire that killed her and her parents, though it was an accident and not an act of evil intent. Whether Helen is evil is debatable since she doesn't intend to kill. She is just lonely and wants other children to play with.

The book ends with the ghost of Helen's mother appearing. The mother forgives Helen and leads on to wherever ghosts go. It is revealed at the end that Heather also accidentally started the fire that killed her mother.

  • Very interesting! Not sure if this is the one (the cover doesn't ring a bell and my memory is of the ghost being more outright malevolent) but seems very close to be a coincidence - I'll check it out, thanks.
    – GotCarter
    Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 18:51

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